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She stood there . . . her shm body swaying in a perfect 
rapture of admiration for her own beauty 



TALES OF 
SECRET EGYPT 

By sax ROHMER 




McKINLAY, STONE & MACKENZIE 
NEW YORK 



PnnUd in the Untied States of Ammca 



Published February, 1919 



CONTENTS 

PARTI 
TALES OP ABtr TABIH 



OHAPTEE 


pagb 


L 


The Yashmak of Pearts 


1 


n. 


Thk Death-Ring of Snefebu 


. 31 


in. 


The Lady of the Lattice . 


. 58 


IV. 


OmAB of iSPAHAJ. .... 


. 87 


V. 


Breath of Atjah .... 


. 114 


VI 


The Whispering Mumstt . » 

PARTH 
OTHER TALES 


. 144 


CHAVTEB 


PAGB 


L 


Lord of the Jackals . 


. 169 


II. 


Lure of Souls .... 


:. 194 


ni. 


The Secret of Ismail . 


. 216 


IV. 


Harun Pasha .... 


. 239 


V. 


In the Vat.t.ey of the Sorceress , 


. 267 


VL 


Pomegranate Flower . 


> 290 



TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

PART I 

TALES OF ABU TABAH 

I 

THE YASHMAK OP PEARLS 

THE duhr, or noonday call to prayer, had just 
sounded from the minarets of the Mosques of 
Kalaun and En-Nasir, and I was idly noting 
the negligible effect of the adan upon the occupants 
of the neighboring shops — coppersmiths for the 
most part — when suddenly my errant attention be- 
came arrested. 

A mendicant of unwholesome aspect crouched in 
the shadow of the narrow gateway at the entrance 
to the Suk es-Saigh, or gold and silver bazaar, hav- 
ing his one serviceable eye fixed in a malevolent stare 
upon something or someone immediately behind me. 

It is part and parcel of my difficult profession to 
subdue all impulses and to think before acting. I 
sipped my coffee and selected a fresh cigarette from 
the silver box upon the rug beside me. In this 
interval I had decided that the one-eyed mendicant 
cherished in his bosom an implacable and murderous 
hatred for my genial friend, All Mohammed, the 



2 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

dealer in antiques; that he was unaware of my 
having divined his bloody secret ; and that if I would 
profit by my ac<iidental discovery, I must continue 
to feign complete ignorance of it. 

Turning casually to Ali Mohammed, I was startled 
to observe the expression upon his usually immobile 
face: he was positively gray, and I thought I de- 
tected a faint rattling sound, apparently produced 
by his teeth; his eyes were set as if by hypnosis 
upon the uncleanly figure huddled in the shadow of 
the low gate. 

**You are unwell, my friend,'' I said. 

Ali Mohammed shook his head feebly, removed 
his eyes by a palpable effort from the watcher in the 
gateway, but almost instantly reverted again to that 
fixed and terrified scrutiny. 

**Not at all, Kernaby Pasha,'' he chattered; **not 
in the least. ' ' 

He passed a hand rapidly over a brow wet with 
perspiration, and moistened his lips, which were 
correspondingly dry. I determined upon a diplo- 
matic tour de force; I looked him squarely in the 
face. 

**For some reason," I said distinctly, **you are 
in deadly fear of the wall-eyed mendicant who is 
sitting by the gate of the Suk es-Saigh, AK Mo- 
hannned, my friend. ' ' 

I turned with assumed carelessness. The beggar 
of murderous appearance had vanished, and Ali 
Mohammed was slowly recovering his composure. 
I knew that I must act quickly, or he would deny 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 3 

with the urbane mendacity of the Egyptian all 
knowledge of the one-eyed one ; therefore — 

'* Acquaint me with the reason of your appre- 
hensions, ' ' I said, at the same time offering him one 
of his own cigarettes; **it may be that I can assist 
you. ' ' 

A moment he hesitated, glancing doubtfully in the 
direction of the gate and back to my face; then — 

**It is one of the people of Tir,'* he whispered, 
bending close to my ear; **of the evil ginn who are 
the creatures of Abu Tabah." 

I was puzzled and expressed my doubt in words. 

**Alas,'' replied Ali Mohammed, **the Imam Abu 
Tabah is neither a man nor an official; he is a ma- 
gician." 

** Indeed I then you speak of one bearing the curi- 
ous name of Abu Tabah, who is at once the holder of 
a holy office and also one who has dealings with the 
ginn and the Efreets, This is strange, Ali Moham- 
med, my friend.'' 

'*It is strange and terrible," he whispered, **and I 
fear that my path is beset with pitfalls and slopeth 
down to desolation." He pronounced the Takhir, 
**Alldliu akhar!" and uttered the words "Hadeed! 
yd mashum''! (Iron! thou unlucky!), a potent in- 
vocation, as the g inn's dread of that metal is well 
known. ** There are things of which one may not 
speak," he declared; **and this is one of them." 

Sorely puzzled as I was by this most mysterious 
happening, yet, because of the pious words of my 
friend, I knew that the incident was closed so far as 



i. TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

confidences were concerned; and I presently took 
my departure, my mind filled with all sorts of odd 
conjectures by which I sought to explain the matter. 
I was used to the superstitions of that quarter where 
almost every gate and every second street has its 
guardian ginnee, but who and what was Abu Tabah? 
An Imam, apparently, though to what mosque at- 
tached Ali Mohammed had not mentioned. And why 
did Ali Mohammed fear Abu Tabah? 

So my thoughts ran, more or less ungoverned, 
whilst I made my way through streets narrow and 
tortuous in the direction of the Rondpoint du Muski 
I saw no more of the wall-eyed mendicant ; but in a 
court hard by the Mosque of el-Ashraf I found my- 
self in the midst of a squabbling crowd of natives 
surrounding someone whom I gathered, from the 
direction of their downward glances, to be prone 
upon the ground. Since the byways of the Suk el- 
Attarin are little frequented by Europeans, at mid- 
day, 1 thrust my way into the heart of the throng, 
thinking that some stray patron of Messrs. Cook and 
Son (Egypt, Ltd.) might possibly have got into 
trouble or have been overcome by the heat. 

Who or what lay at the heart of that gathering I 
never learned. I was still some distance from the 
centre of the disturbance when an evil-smelling sack 
was whipped over my head and shoulders from 
behind, a hand clapped upon my mouth and jaws; 
and, lifted in muscular arms, I found myself being 
borne inarticulate down stone steps, as I gathered 
from the sound, into some cool cellar-like place. 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 



In my capacity as Egyptian representative of 
Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co., of Birmingham, I 
have sometimes found myself in awkward corners; 
but in Cairo, whether the native or European quar- 
ter, I had hitherto counted myself as safe as in Lon- 
don and safer than in Paris. The unexpectedness of 
the present outrage would have been sufficient to 
take my breath away without the agency of the filthy 
sack, which had apparently contained garlic at some 
time and now contained my head. 

I was deposited upon a stone-paved floor and my 
wrists were neatly pinioned behind me by one of my 
captors, whilst another hung on to my ankles. The 
sack was raised from my body but not from my 
face; and whilst a hand was kept firmly pressed 
over the region of my mouth, nimble fingers turned 
my pockets inside out. I assumed at first that I had 
fallen into the clutches of some modern brethren of 
the famous Forty, but when my purse, note-case, 
pocket-book, and other belongings were returned to 
me, I realized that something more underlay this at- 
tempt than the mere activity of a gang of footpads. 

At this conclusion I had just arrived when the 
stinking sack was pulled off entirely and I found 
myself sitting on the floor of a small and very dark 
cellar. Beside me, holding the sack in his huge 
hands, stood a pock-marked negro of most repulsive 
appearance, and before me, his slim, ivory-colored 
hands crossed and resting upon the head of an ebony 



6 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

cane, was a man, apparently an Egyptian, whose ap- 
pearance had something so strange about it that the 
angry words which I had been prepared to utter died 
upon my tongue and I sat staring mutely into the 
face of my captor ; for I could not doubt that the out- 
rage had been dictated by this man's will. 

He was, then, a young man, probably under thirty, 
with perfectly chiseled features and a slight black 
moustache. He wore a black gihbeh, and a white tur- 
ban, and broT^Ti shoes upon his small feet. His face 
was that of an ascetic, nor had I ever seen more won- 
derful and liquid eyes; in them reposed a world of 
melancholy; yet his red lips were parted in a smile 
tender as that of a mother. Inclining his head in a 
gesture of gentle dignity, this man — ^^vhom I hated 
at sight — addressed me in Arabic. 

**I am desolated,^* he said, *^and there is no com- 
fort in my heart because of that which has happened 
to you by my orders. If it is possible for me to 
recompense you by any means within my power, 
command and you shall find a slave. ' ' 

He was poisonously suave. Beneath the placid 
exterior, beneath the sugar-lipped utterances, in the 
deeps of the gazelle-like eyes, was hid a cold and re- 
morseless spirit for which the man's silken demeanor 
was but a cloak. I hated him more and more. But 
my trade — for I do not blush to own myself a trades- 
man — has taught me caution. My ankles were free, 
it is true, but my hands were still tied behind me and 
over me towered the hideous bulk of the negro, 
ffhis might be modem Cairo, and no doubt there were 



THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS 7 

British troops quartered at the Citadel and at the 
Kasr en-Nil ; probably there was a native policeman, 
a representative of twentieth-century law and order, 
somewhere in the maze of streets surrounding me: 
but, in the first place, I was at a physical disadvan- 
tage, in the second place I had reasons for not desir- 
ing unduly to intrude my affairs upon official notice, 
and in the third place some hazy idea of what might 
be behind all this business had begun to creep into 
my mind. 

'*Have I the pleasure,'' I said, and electing to 
speak, not in Arabic but ip English, **of addressing 
the Imam Ahu TahdM" 

I could have sworn that despite his amazing self- 
control the man started slightly; but the lapse, if 
lapse it were, was but momentary. He repeated the 
dignified obeisance of the head — and answered me 
in English as pure as my own. 

**I am called Abu Tabah," he said; **and if I as- 
sure you that my discourteous treatment was dic- 
tated by a mistaken idea of duty, and if I offer you 
this explanation as the only apology possible, will 
you permit me to untie your hands and call an arabi- 
yell to drive you to your hotel?" 

* * No apology is necessary, ' ' I assured him. * * Had 
I returned direct to Shepheard's I should have ar- 
rived too early for luncheon ; and the odor of garlic, 
which informed the sack that your zeal for duty 
caused to be clapped upon my head, is one for which 
I have a certain penchant H it does not amount to a 
passion." 



8 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Abu Tabah smiled, inclined his head again, and 
slightly raising the ebony cane indicated my pinioned 
wrists, at the same time glancing at the negro. In a 
trice I was unbound and once more upon my feet. I 
looked at the dilapidated door which gave access to 
the cellar, and I made a rapid mental calculation of 
the approximate weight in pounds of the larg^ 
negro ; then I looked hard at Abu Tabah — who smil 
ingly met my glance. 

'*Any one of my servants,'' he said urbanely, 
**who wait in the adjoining room, will order you an 
arabiyeh/' 

m 

When the card of Ali Mohamlned was brought to 
me that evening, my thoughts instantly flew to the 
wall-eyed mendicant of the Suk en-Nahhasin, and to 
Abu Tabah, the sugar-lipped. I left the pleasant 
company of the two charming American ladies with 
whom I had been chatting on the terrace and joined 
AH Mohammed in the lounge. 

Without undue preamble he poured his tale of 
woe into my sympathetic ears. He had been lured 
away from his shop later that afternoon, and, in his 
absence, someone had ransacked the place from floor 
to roof. That night on his way to his abode, some^ 
where out Shubra direction I understood, he had 
been attacked and searched, finally to reach his 
house and to find there a holne in wild disorder. 

*'I fear for my life,'' he whispered and glanced 
about the lounge in blackest apprehension; **yet 



THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS 9 

where in all Cairo may I find an intermediary whom 
I can trust? Suppose,'' he pursued, and dropped 
his voice yet lower, **that a commission of ten per 
cent — say, one hundred pounds, English — ^were to be 
earned, should you care, Kemaby Pasha, to earn 
it?" 

I assured him that I should regard such a pro- 
posal with the utmost affection. 

**It would be necessary," he continued, **for yon 
to disguise yourself as an aged woman and to visit 
the harem of a certain wealthy Bey. I have a ring 
which must be shown to the howwah at the gate of 
the harem gardens upon which you would knock 
three times slowly and then twice rapidly. You 
would collect the thousand gineh agreed upon and 
would deliver to a certain lady a sandalwood box, 
the possession of which endangers my life and has 
brought about me the hosts of Abu Tabah the magi- 
cian. ' ' 

So the head of the cat was out of the bag at last. 
But there was more to come and it was not a pro- 
position to plunge at, as I immediately perceived; 
and I parted from Ali Mohammed upon the prudent 
understanding that I should acquaint him with my 
decision on the morrow. 

The terrace of Shepheard's was deserted, when, 
having escorted my visitor to the door, he made his 
way down into the Sharia Kamel Pasha. Two white- 
robed figures who looked like hotel servants, and a 
little nondescript group of natives, stood at the foot 
of the steps. At the instant that doubt entered my 



10 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

mind and too late to warn the worthy Ali Moham* 
med, the group parted to give him passage; then 
... a terrific scuffle was in progress and one of 
the wealthiest merchants of the Muski was being 
badly hustled. 

I ran down the steps, the carriage-despatcher and 
some other officials, whom the disturbance had 
aroused from their secret lairs, appearing almost 
simultaneously. As I reached the street, out from 
the feet of the wrestling throng, like a football from 
a scrum, rolled a neat tarbush. 

Automatically I stooped and picked it up. Its 
weight surprised me. Then, glancing inside the tar- 
hush, I perceived that a little oblong box, together 
with a quaint signet ring, were ingeniously attached 
to the cro^vn by means of silk threads tied around 
the knot of the tassel. I glanced rapidly about me. 
I, alone, had seen the cap roll out upon the pave- 
ment. 

A hard jerk, and I had the box and the ring free 
in my hand. The tall carriage-despatcher, his fero- 
cious efforts now seconded by a native policeman 
who freely employed his cane upon the thinly-clad 
persons of the group, had terminated the scuffle. 

Right and left active figures darted, pursued for 
some little distance by the policeman and the two 
men from the hotel. There were no captures. 

A very dusty and bemused Ali Mohammed, his 
shaven skull robbing him of much of the dignity 
which belonged to his tarbush, confronted me, rue- 
fully dusting his garments. 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 11 

**Yonr tarbush, my friend," I said, restoring his 
property to him with a bow. 

One piercjng glance he cast into the interior, 
then — 

* * Allah ! " he wailed—* ' Allah I I am robbed I 
Yet " 

A sort of martyred resignation, a beatific peace, 
crept over his features. 

**To war against Abu Tabah is the act of a fool,'* 
he declared. **To have obtained the Bey's money 
would have been good, but to have obtained peace 
is better I" 



IV 

I awoke that night from a troubled sleep and from 
fit dream wherein magnetic fingers caressed my fore- 
head hypnotically. For a moment I could not believe 
that I was truly awake ; the long ivory hand of my 
dreams was still moving close before me with a sort 
of slow fanning movement — and other, nimble, 
fingers crept beneath my pillow I 

Of my distaste for impulse I have already spoken, 
and even now, with my mind not wholly under con- 
trol, I profited by those years of self-imposed disci- 
pline. Without fully opening my eyes, cautiously, 
inch by inch, I moved my hand to that side of the bed 
nearer to the wall, where there reposed a leather hol- 
ster containing my pistol. 

My finders closed over the butt of the weapon; 



12 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

and in a flash I became wide awake . . . and had the 
ring of the barrel within an inch of the smiling face 
of AbuTabah! 

I sat up. 

**Be good enough, my friend,*' I said, **to turn 
on the center lamp. The switch, as you have prob- 
ably noted, is immediately to the left of the door. ' ' 

Abu Tabah, straightening his figure and with- 
drawing his hand from beneath my pillow, inclined 
his picturesque head in grave salute and moved 
stately in the direction indicated. The room was 
flooded with yellow light. Its disorder was appal- 
ling ; apparently no item of my gear had escaped at- 
tention. 

*^Pray take a seat,'* I said; *Hhis one close beside 
me. ' * 

Abu Tabah gravely accepted the invitation. 

**This is the second occasion,'' I continued, **upon 
which you have unwarrantably submitted me to a 
peculiar form of outrage '* 

**Not unwarrantably,'' replied Abu Tabah, his 
speech suave and gentle ; *^but I fear I am too late !" 

His words came as a beam of enlightenment. At 
last I had the game in my hands did I but play my 
cards with moderate cunning. 

**You must pursue your inquiries in the harem of 
the Bey," I said. 

Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders. 

'^The house of Yussuf Bey has been watched," he 
replied; ^'therefore my agents have failed me and 
must be punished. " 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 13 

"They are guiltless. It was humanly impossible 
to perceive my entrance to the house, '* I declared 
truthfully. 

Abu Tabah smiled into my face. 

**So it was you who carried the sacred hurho of the 
Seyyideh Nefiseh/^ he said; "and to-night Ali Mo- 
hammed brought you the reward for your perilous 
journey. ' ' 

"Your reasoning is sound," I replied, "and the ac- 
curacy of your information remarkable. ' ' 

I had scored the first point in the game ; for I had 
learned that the wonderful silken yashmak^ pearl 
embroidered, which I had found in the sandalwood 
box, was no less a curiosity than the face-veil of the 
Seyyideh Nefiseh and must therefore be of truly 
astounding antiquity and unique of its kind. 

"The woman Shahmarah,'' continued my mid- 
night visitor, the eerie light of fanaticism dawning 
in his eyes, "who was once a dancing girl, and who 
will ruin Yussuf Bey as she ruined Ghuri Pasha be- 
fore him, must be for ever accursed and meet with 
the fate of courtesans if she dare to wear the hurho 
of Nefiseh." 

I had scored my second point ; I had learned that 
the lady to whom Ali Mohammed would have had me 
deliver the yashmak was named Shahmarah and was 
evidently the favorite of the notorious Yussuf Bey. 
The complacent self-satisfaction of Abu Tabah 
amused me vastly, for he clearly entertained no 
doubts respecting his efficiency as a searcher. 

He was watching me now with his strange 



14 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

hypnotic eyes, which had softened again, and his 
fixed stare caused me a certain uneasiness. For a 
captured thief, sitting covered by the pistol of his 
captor, he was ridiculously composed. 

**You have performed an immoral deed,** he said 
sweetly, **and have pandered to the base desires of 
a woman of poor repute. I offer you an opportunity 
of performing a good deed — and of trebling your 
profit.** 

This was as I would have it, and I nodded en- 
couragingly. 

** Unfold to me the thing that is in your mind,'* I 
directed him. 

**I am a Moslem,** he said; '*and although Yils- 
suf Bey is a dog of dogs, he is nevertheless a True 
Believer — and I may not force my way into his 
harem.' ^ 

**He might return the veil if he knew that Shah- 
marah had it,** I suggested ingenuously. 

Abu Tabah shook his head. 

** There are difficulties,** he replied, **and if the 
theft is not to be proclaimed to the world, there is 
no time to be lost. This is my proposal : Return to 
the woman Shahmarah, and acquaint her with the 
fact that the sacred veil has been traced to her abode 
and her death decided upon by the Grand Mufti if it 
be not given up. Force the merchant Ali Moham- 
med to return the money received by him, using the 
same threat — ^which will prove a talisman of power. 
Return to the infidel woman the full amount; I will 
make good your commission, to which, if you be sua 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 15 

eessful, I will add two hundred pounds." 

I performed some rapid thinking. 

**You must give me a little time to consider this 
matter/' I said. 

Abu Tabah graciously inclined his head. 

**0n Tuesday next a company of holy men who 
have journeyed hither from Ispahan, go to view 
this relic ; you have therefore five days to act. ' * 

**And if I decline!" 

Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders. 

**The loss must be made known — ^it would be a 
great scandal; the merchant Ali Mohammed, and 
the woman, ShahmarMi, must be arrested — very un- 
desirable ; you must be arrested — most undesirable ; 
and your banking account will be poorer by three 
hundred pounds. ' ' 

* * Frightfully undesirable, ' ' I declared. * ' But sup- 
pose I strike the first blow and give you in charge of 
the police here and now!" 

*^You may try the experiment," he said. 

I waved my hand in the direction of the door (I 
had reasons for remaining in bed). '^Ma'saldma! 
(Good-bye)," I said. ^* Don't stay to restore the 
room to order. I shall expect you early in the morn- 
ing. You will find the door of the hotel open any 
time after eight and I can highly recommend it as 
a mode of entrance." 

Having saluted me with both hands, Abu Tabah 
made his stately departure, leaving me much exer- 
cised in mind as to how he proposed to account to 
the howivab for his sudden appearance in the build- 



16 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

ing. This, however, was no affair of mine, and, 
first reclosing the window, I unfastened from around 
my left ankle the sandalwood box and the ring which 
I had bound there by a piece of tape — a device to 
which I owed their preservation from the subtle 
fingers of Abu Tabah. Furthermore, to their pres- 
ence there I owed my having awakened when I did. 
I am persuaded that the mysterious Egyptian's pas- 
ses would have continued to keep me in a profound 
Bleep had it uot been for the pain occasioned by the 
pressure of the tape. 

Opening the sandalwood box, and then the silver 
one which it enclosed, I re-examined the really won- 
derful specimen of embroidery whereof they formed 
the reliquary. The hurko was of Tussur silk, its tex- 
ture so fine that the whole veil, which was some four 
feet long by two wide, might have been passsd 
through the finger ring and would readily be con- 
cealed in the palm of the hand. 

It was of unusual form, having no forehead band, 
more nearly resembling a yashmak than a true 
burko, and was heavily embroidered with pearls of 
varying sizes and purity, although none of them 
were large. Its instrinsic value was considerable, 
but in view of its history such a valuation must have 
fallen far below the true one. When its loss became 
known, I estimated that Messrs. Moses, Murphy & 
Co. could readily dispose of three duplicates through 
various channels to wealthy collectors whose en- 
thusiasms were greater than their morality. The 
eale to a museum, or to the lawful owners, of the 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 17 

original (known technically as **tlie model'") would 
crown a sound commercial transaction. 

Cock-crow that morning discovered me at the pri- 
vate residence, in the Boulevard Clot-Bey, of one 
Suleyman Levi, with whom I had had minor dealings 
in the past 



At nine o'clock on the following Monday night, an 
old Egyptian woman, enveloped from head to foot 
in a black tob and wearing a black crepe face-veil 
boasting a hideous brass nose-piece, halted before a 
doorway set in the wall guarding the great gardens 
of the palace of Yussuf Bey. I was the imperson- 
ator of this decrepit female. Abu Tabah, who thus 
far had accompanied me, stepped into the dense 
shadow of the opposite y^i^YL and was thereby swal- 
lowed up. 

I rapped three times slowly upon the doorway, 
then twice rapidly. Almost at once a little wicket 
therein flew open, and a bloated negro face showed 
framed in the square aperture. 

* * The messenger from Ali Mohammed of the Suk 
en-Nahhasin," I said, in a croaky voice. ^^ Conduct 
me to the Lady Shahmarah." 

* * Show her seal, ' ' answered the eunuch, extending 
through the opening a large, fat hand. 

I gave him the ring so fortunately discovered in 
the tarbush of my friend the merchant and the hand 
was withdrawn. Within a colloquy took place ia 



18 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

which a female voice took part. Then the door was 
partly opened for my admittance — and I found my- 
self in the gardens of the Bey. 

In the moonlight it was a place of wonder, an en- 
chanted demesne; but more like an Edmond Dulac 
water-color than a real garden. The palace with its 
magnificent muslirahiyeh windows, so poetically sym- 
bolical of veiled women, guarded by several fine, 
straight-limbed palm trees, spoke of the Old Cairo 
which saw the birth of The Arabian Nights and which 
so many of us imagine to have vanished with the 
hhalifate. 

A girl completely muffled up in many-hued shawls 
and scarves, so that her red-slippered feet and two 
bright eyes heavily darkened with kohl were the only 
two portions of her person visible, stood before me, 
her figure seeming childish beside that of the gross 
negro — ^whom I hated at sight because he reminded 
me of the one whom I had encountered in Ab4 
Tabah^s cellar. 

^'Follow me, quickly, mother, '* said the girL 
**You'^ — pointing imperiously at the black man — 
** remain here.'' 

I followed her in silence, noting that she pursued 
a path which ran parallel with the wall and lay 
wholly in its shadow. The gardens were fragrant 
with the perfume of roses, and in the center was a 
huge marble fountain surrounded by kiosks project- 
ing into the water, tall acacias overshadowing them. 
"We skirted two sides of the palace, its mushrahiyeh 
[windows mysteriously lighted by the moon but show' 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 19 

ing no illumination from within. There we came to 
the entrance to a kind of trellis-covered walk, mosaic 
paved and patched delightfully with mystic light. It 
terminated before a small but heavy and nail-stud- 
ded door, of which my guide held the key. 

Entering, whilst she held the door ajar, I found 
myself in utter darkness, to be almost immediately 
dispelled by the yellow gleam of a lamp which the 
girl took from some niche, wherein, already lighted, 
it had been concealed. Up a flight of bare wooden 
stairs she conducted me, and opened a second prison- 
like door at their head. Leaving the lamp upon the 
top step, she pushed me gently forward into a small, 
octagonal room, paneled in dark wood inlaid with 
mother-o '-pearl and reminding me of the interior of 
a magnified kursee or coffee table. 

Rugs and carpets strewed the floor and the air was 
heavy with the smell of musk, a perfume which I 
detest, it having characterized the personality of a 
certain Arab lady who sold me so marvelous a Dam- 
ascus scimitar that I was utterly deceived by it 
"antil too late. 

Raising a heavy curtain draped in a door shaped 
like an old-fashioned keyhole, and embellished with 
an intricate mass of fretwork carving, my guide 
went out, leaving me alone with my reflections. This 
interval was very brief, however, and was termi- 
nated by the reappearance of the girl, who this time 
made her entrance through a second doorway 
masked by the paneling. A faint musical splashing 
sound greeted me through the opening; and when 



20 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

my guide beckoned me to enter and I obeyed, I found 
myself in a chamber of barbaric beauty and in the 
presence of the celebrated Shahmarah. 

The apartment, save for one end being wholly 
occupied by a magnificent mushrahiyeh screen, was 
walled with what looked like Verde Antico marble 
or green serpentine. An ebony couch having feet 
shaped as those of a leopard and enriched with 
gleaming bronze, having the skins of leopards cast 
across it, and, upon the skins, silken soft cushions 
wrought in patterns of green and gold, stood upon 
the mosaic floor at the head of three shallow steps 
which descended to a pool where a fountain played, 
softly musical; wherein lurked gleaming shapes of 
silver and gold. Bright mats were strewn around, 
and at one comer of the pool a huge silver mihkharaJi 
sent up its pencilings of aromatic smoke. 

Upon this couch Shahmarah reclined, and I 
perceived immediately that her reputation for 
beauty was richly deserved. There was something 
leopardine in her pliant shape, which seemed to 
harmonize with the fierce black and gold of the skins 
upon which she was stretched ; she had the limbs of 
a Naiad and the eyes of an Egyptian Circe. Upon 
her head she wore a rahtah, or turban, of pure white, 
secured and decorated in front by a brooch of 
ancient Eg^^Dtian enamel-work probably fourteenth 
dynasty, and for whcih I would gladly have given 
her one hundred pounds. If I have forgotten what 
else she wore it may be because my senses were in 
somewhat of a turmoil as I stood before her in that 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 21 

opulent apartment — ^which I suddenly recognized, 
and not 'v^dthout discomfiture, to be the meslakh of 
the hammdm. I can only relate, then, that the image 
left upon my mind was one of jewels and dusky 
peach-like lovelinass. Jewels there were in a- 
bundance, clasped about the warm curves of her arms 
and overloading her fingers; she wore gold bands 
thickly encrusted with gems about her ankles (the 
slim ankles of a dancing girl) ; and a fiery ruby of 
the true pigeon 's-blood color gleamed upon the first 
toe of her left foot, the nails of which were highly 
manicured and stained with henna. 

Fixing her wonderful eyes upon me — 

**You have brought the veil?*' she said. 

'^The merchant Ali Mohammed ordered me to 
convey to him the price agreed upon, jewel of 
Egypt,'' I mumbled, **ere I yielded up this a poor 
man's only treasure." 

Shahmarah sat upright upon the couch. Her 
delicate brows were drawn together in a frown, and 
her eyes, rendered doubly luminous by the pigment 
with which they were surrounded, glared fiercely at 
me, whilst she stamped one bare foot upon a cushion 
lying on the mosaic floor. 

**The veil!" she cried imperiously. *'I will send 
the merchant Ali Mohammed an order on the 
treasury of the Bey." 

*'0 moon of the Orient," I replied, **0 ravisher 
iyf souls, I am but a poor ugly old wotnan basking 
in the radiaiice of beauty and loveliness. Would 
yon ruin one so old and feeble and helpless f I must 



22 TALES OF SECBET EGYPT 

have the price agreed upon; let it be counted into 
this bag'' — and concealing my tell-tale hands as 
much as possible, I bent humbly and placed a leather 
wallet upon a little table beside her which bore 
fruits, sweetmeats, and a long-necked gold flagon. 
**When it is done, the yashmak of pearls, which only 
thy dazzling perfection might dare to wear, shall bo 
yielded up to thee, daughter of musk and amber- 
gris.'' 

There fell a short silence, wherein the fountain 
musically plashed and Shahmarah shot little inquir- 
ing glances laden with venom into the mists of my 
black veil, and others which held a query over my 
shoulder at her confidant. 

*^I might have you cast into a dungeon beneath 
this palace," she hissed at me, bending lithely 
forward and extending a jeweled forefinger. **No 
one would miss thee, mother of afflictions." 

**In that event," I crooned quaveringly, **0 tree 
of pearls, the veil could never be thine; for the 
merchant Ali Mohammed, who awaits me at the 
gate, refuses to deliver it up until the price agreed 
upon has been placed in his hands." 

*^He is a Jew, and a son of Jews, who eats without 
washing ! a devourer of pork, and an unclean insect," 
she cried. 

She extended the jeweled hand towards the girl 
who stood behind mo and who, having loosened her 
wraps, proved to be a comely but shrewd-looking 
Assyrian. **Let the money be counted into the bag," 
she ordered, 'Hhat we may be rid of the presence 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 35 

of this garrnlous and hideous old hag." 

**0 fountain of justice," I exclaimed; **0 peerleas 
fiouri, to behold whom is to swoon with delight 
and rapture." 

From a locked closet the Assyrian girl took a 
wooden coffer, and before my gratified eyes began 
to count out upon the little table notes and gold 
until a pile lay there to have choked a miser with 
emotion. (The ready-money transactions of the East 
have always delighted me.) But, with the chinking 
of the last piece of gold upon the pile — 

** There is no more," said the girl. **It is one 
hundred pounds short." 

**It is more than enough!" cried Shahmarah. **I 
mm ruined. Give me the veil and go." 

**0 vision of paradise," I exclaimed in anguish, 
*'the merchant Ali Mohammed would never consent. 
In lieu of the remainder" — I pointed to the antique 
enamel in her turban — **give me the brooch from 
thy rahfah/' 

**0 sink of corruption!" was her response, her 
whole body positively quivering with rage, *'it is 
not for thy filthy claws. Here!" — she pulled a ring 
containing a fair- sized emerald from one of her 
fingers and tossed it contemptuously upon the pile 
of money — *Hhou art more than repaid. The veil! 
the veil!" 

I turned to the girl who had counted out the gold. 

**0 minor moon, whom even the glory of paradise 
cannot dim," I said, **put the money in the wallet, 
for my hands are old and infirm, and give it to me." 



24 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

The Assyrian scooped the gold and notes into the 
leather bag with the utmost unconcern, and as though 
she had been shelling peas into a basket. The pro- 
found disregard for wealth exhibited in the harem 
of Yussuf . Bey was extraordinary ; and I mentally 
endorsed the opinion expressed by Abu Tabah that 
the ruin of the Bey was imminent. 

Securing the heavy wallet to the girdle which I 
wore beneath my veilings, I placed upon the table 
where the money had lain a small silken packet. 

*'Here is the veil/' I said; ^^for my story of the 
merchant, Ali Mohammed, who had refused to yield 
it up, was but a stratagem to test the generosity of 
thy soul, as thy refusal to give me the price agreed 
upon was but a subterfuge to test my honesty.*' 

Heedless of the words, Shahmarah snatched up 
the packet, tore o:ff the wrappings, and in a trice was 
standing upright before me wearing the yashmak of 
pearls. 

I think I had never seen a figure more barbarically 
lovely than that of this soulless Egyptian so 
adorned. 

* ^ My mirror, Safiyeh ! my mirror ! ' ' she cried. 

And the girl placing a big silver mirror in he? 
hand, she stood there looking into its surface, her 
wonderful eyes swimming with ecstp.sy and her slim 
body swaying in a perfect rapture of admiration for 
her own beauty. 

Suddenly she dropped the mirror upon the 
cushions and threw wide her arms. 

**Am I not the fairest woman in Egypt T ^ she 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 25 

(exclaimed. **I tread upon the hearts of men and 
my power is above the power of kings !*' 

Then a, subtle change crept over her features; 
and ere I could utter the first of the honeyed compli- 
ments ready upon my tongue — 

**Send Amineh to warn Mahmud that the old 
woman is about to depart," she directed her atten- 
dant; and, turning to me: **Wait in the outer room. 
Thy presence is loathsome to me, mother of 
calamities/' 

**I hear and obey,'' I replied, *^0 pomegranate 
blossom'' — and, following the direction of her rigidly 
extended finger, I shuffled back to the little octagonal 
apartment and the masked door was slammed almost 
upon my heels. 

This room, which possessed no windows, was 
solely illuminated by a silken-shaded lantern, but I 
had not long to wait in that weird half-light ere my 
conductress, again closely muffled in her shawls, 
opened the door at the head of the steps and signed 
to me to descend. 

**Lead the way, my beautiful daughter," I said; 
for I had no intention of submitting myself to the 
risk of a dagger in the back. 

She consented without demur, which served to 
allay my suspicions somewhat, and in silence we 
went down the uncarpeted stairs and out into the 
trellis-covered walk. The shadow beneath the high 
wall had deepened and widened since we had last 
skirted the gardens, and I felt my way along with 
my hand cautiously outstretched. 



26 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

At a point within sight of the flower-grown arbor 
beneath which I knew the gate to be concealed, my 
gnide halted. 

**I must return, mother/' she said quickly. 
"There is the gate, and Mahmud will open it for 
you." 

** Farewell, O daughter of the willow branch," I 
replied. **May Allah, the Great, the Compassionate, 
be with thee, and may thou marry a prince of 
Persia." 

Light of foot she sped away, and, my forebodings 
coming to a sudden climax, I crept fonvard with 
excessive caution, holding my clenched hand im- 
mediately in front of my face — a device which ex^ 
perience of the hospitable manners of the East had 
taught me. 

It was well that I did so. Within three spaces of 
the gate a noose fell accurately over my head and 
was drawn tight with a strangling jerk ! 

But that it also encircled my upraised arm, its 
clasp must have terminated my wordly aft'airs. 

My assailant had sprung upon me from behind; 
and, in the fleeting instant between the fall of the 
noose and its tightening, I turned about . . . and 
thrust the nose of my Colt repeater (whi^h I grasped 
in that protective upraised hand) fully into the 
grinning mouth of the negro gate-keeper ! 

There was a rattle and gleam of falling ivory, for 
several of the ho-jowah's teeth had been dislodged 
by the steel barrel. Keeping the weapon firmly 
thrust into the man's distended jaws, I circled 



THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 27 

around him, whilst his hands relaxed their hold 
upon the strangling-cord, and pushed him backward 
in the direction of the door. 

**Open thou black son of offal I" I said, '*or I 
will blow thee a cavity as wide as thy blubber mouth 
through the back of that fat and greasy neck ! This 
was, no doubt, a stratagem of thy mistress to test 
my fitness to be entrusted with large sums of 
money!" 

When, a few moments later, I stood in the lane 
outside the gardens of Yussuf Bey, and felt with my 
hand the fat wallet at my waist, I experienced a 
thrill of professional satisfaction, for had I not suc- 
cessfully negotiated a duplicate veil, embroidered 
with imitation pearls which the excellent Suleyman 
Levi by dint of four days of almost ceaseless toil 
had made for mef . . . 

From the shadows of the opposite wall Abu Tabah 
stepped forth, stately. 

* * Quick ! ' ' I said. * * I fear pursuit at any moment I 
Is the arahtyeh waiting T' 

**You have it?" he demanded, some faint sign of 
human animation creeping over his impassive face. 

**I have!" I replied. *'I will give it to you in 
the arahtyeh," 

Side by side we passed down the deserted 
thoroughfare to where, beside a solitary palm, a pair- 
horse carriage was waiting. Appreciating some- 
thing of my companion's natural impatience, I 
pressed into his hand the famous sandalwood box 
which once had reposed in the tarbush of Ali 



28 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Mohammed. The carriage rolled around a comer 
and out into the lighted Sharia Mobadayan. Abu 
Tabah opened the sandalwood box, and then, rever- 
ently, the inner box of silver. Within shimmered the 
pearls of the sacred hurko. He did not touch the 
relic with his hands, but reclosed the boxes and con- 
cealed the reliquary beneath his black robe. I heard 
the crackle of notes; and a little packet surrounded 
by a band of elastic was pressed into my hand. 

** Three hundred pounds, English,^' said Abu 
Tabah. *^One hundred pounds in recompense for 
the commission you returned, and two hundred 
pounds for the recovery of the relic. *' 

I thrust the wad into the bag beneath my robe 
containing the other spoils of the evening. A second 
and even more grateful glow of professional joy 
warmed my heart. For in the reliquary which I 
had handed to Abu Tabah reposed the second pro- 
duct of Suleyman Levi's scientific toils; his four 
days' labor having resulted in the production of two 
quite passable duplicates ; although neither were by 
any means up to the standard of Messrs. Moses, 
Murphy & Co. 

Coming to the house wherein I had endued my 
disguise, Abu Tabah left me to metamorphose myself 
into a decently dressed Englishman suitable for ad- 
mission to an hotel of international repute. 

^^Liltdk sa^ida, Abu Tabah/' I said. 

In the open doorway he turned. 

"lAltak sa'ida, Kernaby Pasha," he replied, and 
smiled upon me very sweetly. 



THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS S9 

VI 

It was after midniglit when I returned to Shep- 
heard's, but I went straight to my room, and switch- 
ing on the table-lamp, wrote a long letter to my 
principals. Something seemed to have gone wrong 
with the lock of my attache-case, and my good humor 
was badly out of joint by the time that I succeeded 
in opening it. From underneath a mass of business 
correspondence I took out a large, sealed envelope, 
which I enclosed with a letter in one yet larger, to 
be registered to Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co., Birm- 
ingham, in the morning. I turned in utterly tired 
but happy, to dream complacently of the smile of 
Abu Tabah and of the party of holy men who had 
journeyed from Ispahan. 

Exactly a fortnight later the following registered 
letter was handed to me as I was about to sit down 
to lunch — 

The Hon. Neville Kernaby. 
Shepheard's Hotel, 
Cairo, Egypt. 

Deab Mr. Nevh^le Kernaby — 

We are returning herewith the silken veil whicK 
you describe as **the authentic burko of the Seyyideh 
Nefiseh, stolen from her shrine in the Tombs of the 
Khalifs.'' Your statement that you can arrange 
for its purchase at the cost of one thousand pounds 
does not interest us, nor do we expect so high- 
salaried an expert as yourself to send us palpable 



80 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

and very inferior forgeries. We are manufacturers 
of duplicates, not buyers of same. 

Yours truly, 

Lloyd Llewellyn. 
(For Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co.). 

I was positively aghast. Tearing open the en- 
closed package, I glared like a madman at the 
yashmak which it contained. The silk, in comparison 
■with that of which the real veil was compared, was 
coarse as cocoanut matting; the embroidery was 
crude; the pearls shrieked ** imitation ^ ' aloud! At 
a glance I knew the thing for one of the pair made 
by Suleyman Levi ! 

The truth crashed in upon my mind. Following 
my visit to the harem of Yussuf Bey, I had bestowed 
no more than a glance upon the envelope wherein, 
early on the morning of the same day, I had lovingly 
sealed the authentic veil ; and a full hour had elapsed 
between the time of parting with the sugar-lipped 
one and my return to my rooms at the hotel. 

I understood, now, why the lock of my attache- 
case had been out of order on that occasion . . . 
and I comprehended the sweet smile of Abu Tabah I 



n 

THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 



THE orchestra had just ceased playing; and, 
taking advantage of the lull in the music, 
my companion leaned confidentially forward, 
Bhooting suspicious glances all around him, although 
there was nothing about the well-dressed after- 
dinner throng filling Shepheard's that night to have 
aroused misgiving in the mind of a cinema anar- 
chist. 

**I have a very big thing in view," he said, speak- 
ing in a husky whisper. **I shall be one up on yon, 
Kernaby, if I pull it off . ' ' 

He glanced sideways, in the manner of a panto- 
mime brigand, at a party of New York tourists, our 
immediate neighbors, and from them to an elderly 
peer with whom I v/as slightly acquainted and who, 
in addition to his being stone deaf, had never noticed 
anything in his life, much less attempted so fatiguing 
an operation as intrigue. 

** Indeed," I commented; and rang the bell with 
the purpose in view of ordering another cooling 
beverage. 

True, I might be the Egyptian representative of a 
Birmingham commercial enterprise, but I did not 

31 



32 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

gladly suffer the society of this individual, whose 
only claim to my acquaintance lay in the fact that 
he was in the employ of a rival house. My lack of 
interest palpably disappointed him; but I thought 
little of the man^s qualities as a connoisseur and- less 
of his company. His name was Theo Bishop and I 
fancy that his family was associated with the tanning 
industry. I have since thought more kindly of poor 
Bishop, but at the time of which I write nothing 
could have pleased me better than his sudden disso- 
lution. 

Perhaps unconsciously I had allowed my boredom 
to become rudely apparent; for Bishop slightly 
turned his head aside, and — 

**Right-o, Kernaby,'' he said; *^I know you think 
I am an ass, so we will say no more about it. 
Another cocktail T' 

And now I became conscience-stricken; for 
mingled with the disappointment in Bishop's tone 
and manner was another note. Vaguely it occurred 
to me that the man was yearning for sympathy of 
some kind, that he was bursting to unbosom him- 
self, and that the vanity of a successful rival was 
by no means wholly responsible. I have since placed 
that ambiguous note and recognized it for a note of 
tragedy. But at the time I was deaf to its pleading. 

We chatted then for some while longer on in- 
different topics. Bishop being, as I have indicated, a 
man difficult to offend ; when, having correspondence 
to deal with, I retired to my own room. I suppose 
I had been writing for about an hour, when a servant 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 33 

catae to annonnce a caller. Taking an ordinary 
visiting-card from the brass salver, I read — 

Abu Tabah. 

No title preceded tlie name, no address followed, 
but I became aware of something very like a nervous 
thrill as I stared at the name of my visitor. Per- 
sonality is one of the profoundest mysteries of our 
being. Of the person whose card I held in my hand 
I knew little, practically nothing; his actions, if at 
times irregular, had never been wantonly violent; 
his manner was gentle as that of a mother to a baby 
and his singular reputation among the natives I 
thought I could afford to ignore; for the Egyptian, 
like the Celt, with all his natural endowments, is 
yet a child at heart. Therefore I cannot explain why, 
sitting there in my room in Shepheard's Hotel, I 
knew and recognized, at the name of Abu Tabah, 
the touch of fear. 

**I will see him downstairs, ' ' I said. 

Then, as the servant was about to depart, recog- 
nizing that I had made a concession to that strange 
sentiment which the Imam Abu Tabah had some- 
how inspired in me — 

**No,'' I added; **show him up here to my room." 

A few moments later the man returned again, 
carrying the brass salver, upon which lay a sealed 
envelope. I took it up in surprise, noting that it 
was one belonging to the hotel, and, ere opening it — 

''Where is my visitor!'' I said in Arabic. 



34 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

**He regrets that he cannot stay,'* replied the 
man ; * ^ but he sends you this letter. * ' 

Greatly mystified, I dismissed the servant and 
tore open the envelope. Inside, upon a sheet of 
hotel notepaper I found this remarkable message — 

Kernaby Pasha — 

There are reasons why I cannot stay to see you 
personally, but I would have you believe that this 
warning is dictated by nothing but friendship. 
Grave peril threatens. It is associated with the 
iiieroglyphic — • 




If you would avert it, and if you value your life, 
avoid all contact with anything bearing this figure. 

Abu Tab ah. 

The mystery deepened. There had been some- 
thing incongruous about the modern European 
visiting-card used by this representative of Islam, 
this living illustration of the Arabian Nights; now, 
his incomprehensible *^ warning" plunged me back 
again into the mediaeval Orient to which he properly 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 35 

belonged. Yet I knew Abu Tabah, for all his 
romantic aspect, to be eminently practical, and I 
could not credit him with descending to the methods 
of melodrama. 

As I studied the precise wording of the note, I 
seemed to see the slim figure of its author before 
me, black-robed, white-turbaned, and urbane, his 
delicate ivory hands crossed and resting upon the 
head of the ebony cane without which I had never 
seen him. Almost, I succumbed to a sort of sub- 
jective hallucination ; Abu Tabah became a veritable 
presence, and the poetic beauty of his face struck 
me anew, as, fixing upon me his eyes, which were 
like the eyes of a gazelle, he spoke the strange 
words cited above, in the pure and polished English 
which he held at command, and described in the air, 
with a long nervous forefinger, the queer device 
which symbolized the Ancient Egyptian god, Set, 
the Destroyer. 

Of course, it was the aura of a powerful person- 
ality, clinging even to the written message ; but there 
was something about the impression made upon me 
which argued for the writer's sincerity. 

That Abu Tabah was some kind of agent, recog- 
nized — at any rate unofficially — by the authorities, 
I knew or shrewdly surmised; but the exact nature 
of his activities, and how he reconciled them with 
his religious duties, remained profoundly mys- 
terious. The episode had rendered further work 
impossible, and I descended to the terrace, with 
no more defiinite object ip view than that of find- 



36 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

ing a quiet comer where I might meditate in the 
congenial society of my briar, and at the same time 
seek inspiration from the ever-changing throng in 
the Sharia Kamel Pasha. 

I had scarcely set my foot upon the terrace, how- 
ever, ere a hand was laid upon my arm. Turning 
quickly I recognized, in the dusk, Hassan es-Sugra, 
for many years a trusted employee of the British 
Archasological Society. 

His demeanor was at once excited and furtive, 
and I recognized with something akin to amazement 
that he, also, had a story to unfold. I mentally 
catalogued this eventful evening *^the night of 
strange confidences.'' 

Seated at a little table on the deserted balcony 
(for the evening was very chilly) and directly facing 
the shop of Philip, the dealer in Arab woodwork, 
Hassan es-Sugra told his wonder tale; and as he 
told it I knew that Fate had cast me, willy-nilly, 
for a part in some comedy upon which the curtain 
had already risen here in Cairo, and whereof the 
second act should be played in perhaps the most 
ancient setting which the hand of man has builded. 
As the narrative unrolled itself before me, I per- 
ceived wheels within wheels ; I was wholly absorbed, 
yet half incredulous, 

** . . . When the professor abandoned work on 
the pyramid, Kernaby Pasha,'' he said, bending 
eagerly forward and laying his muscular brown 
hand upon my sleeve, *4t was not because there was 
no more to learn there." 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 37 

**I am aware of this, Hassan," I interrupted, 
**it was in order that they might carry on the work 
at the Pyramid of lUahun, which resulted in a find 
of jewelery ahnost unique in the annals of Egypt- 
ology. '^ 

**I)o I not know all this!" exclaimed Hassan im- 
patiently; *^and was not mine the hand that un- 
covered the golden uraeus? But the work projected 
at the Pyramid of Meydum was never completed, 
and I can tell you why." 

I stared at him through the gloom; for I had 
already some idea respecting the truth of this matter. 

**It was that the men, over two hundred of them, 
refused to enter the passage again," he whispered 
dramatically, *4t was because misfortune and 
disaster visited more than one who had penetrated 
to a certain place therein." He bent further for- 
ward. **The Pyramid of Meydum is the home of a 
powerful Efreet, Kernaby Pasha! But I who was 
the last to leave it, know what is concealed there. 
In a certain place, low down in the corner of the 
King's Chamber, is a ring of gold, bearing a 
cartouche. It is the royal ring of the Pharaoh who 
built the pyramid." 

He ceased, watching me intently. I did not doubt 
Hassan's word, for I had always counted him a 
man of integrity; but there was much that was 
obscure and much that was mysterious in his story. 

**"Why did you not bring it away?" I asked. 

**I feared to touch it, Kernaby Pasha; it is an evil 
talisman. Until to-day I have feared to speak of it." 



88 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

''And to-day?'' 

Hassan extended his hands, palms upward. 

**I am threatened with the loss of my house,'* 
he said simply, *4f I do not find a certain sum of 
money within a period of twelve days. ' ' 

I sat resting my chin on my hand and staring 
into the face of Hassan es-Sugra. Could it be that 
from superstitious motives such a treasure had 
indeed been abandoned? Could it be that Fate had 
delivered into my hands a relic so priceless as the 
signet-ring of Sneferu, one of the earliest Memphite 
Pharaohs? Since I had recently incurred the dis- 
pleasure of my principals, Messrs. Moses, Murphy 
& Co., of Birmingham, the mere anticipation of 
such a **find'' was sufficient to raise my professional 
enthusiasm to white heat, and in those few moments 
of silence I had decided upon instant action. 

''Meet me at Rikka Station, to-morrow morning 
at nine o 'clock,'' I said, "and arrange for donkeys 
to carry us to the pyramid.'' 



On my arrival at Rikka, and therefore at the 
very outset of my inquiry, I met with what one 
slightly prone to superstition might have regarded 
as an unfortunate omen. A native funeral was pass- 
ing out of the town amid the wailing of women and 
the chanting by the Yemeneeyeh, of the Profession 
of the Faith, with its queer monotonous cadences, 
a performance which despite its familiarity in the 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 39 

Near East never failed to affect me unpleasantly. 
By the token of the tarhush upon the bier, I knew 
that this was a man who was being hurried to his 
lonely resting-place on the fringe of the desert. 

As the procession wound its way out across the 
sands, I saw to the removal of my baggage and 
joined Hassan es-Sugra, who awaited me by the 
wooden barrier. I perceived immediately that 
something was wrong with the man; he was pal- 
pably laboring under the influence of some strong 
excitement, and his dark eyes regarded me almost 
fearfully. He was muttering to himself like one 
suffering from an over-indulgence in HasJiish, and 
I detected the words *' Allahu alchar!" (God is most 
great) several times repeated. 

**What ails you, Hassan, my friend?" I said; 
and noting how his gaze persistently returned to 
the melancholy procession wending its way towards 
the little Moslem cemetery: — **Was the dead man 
some relation of yours?'' 

* * No, no, Kernaby Pasha, ' ' he muttered gutturally, 
and moistened his lips with his tongue; **I was 
but slightly acquainted with him." 

**Yet you are much disturbed." 

**Not at all, Kernaby Pasha," he assured me; 
**not in the slightest." 

By which familiar formula I knew that Hassan: 
es-Sugra would conceal from me the cause of his 
distress, and therefore, since I had no appetite for 
further mysteries, I determined to learn it from 
another source. 



40 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

''See to the loading of the donkey/' I directed 
him — for three sleek little animals were standing 
beside him, patiently awaiting the toil of the day. 

Hassan setting about the task with a cheerful 
alacrity obviously artificial, I approached the native 
tstation master, with whom I was acquainted, and 
put to him a number of questions respecting his 
important functions — in which I was not even mildly 
interested. But to the Oriental mind a direct in- 
quiry is an affront, almost an insult; and to have 
inquired bluntly the name of the deceased and the 
manner of his death would have been the best way 
to have learned nothing whatever about the matter. 
Therefore having discussed in detail the slothful 
incompetence of Arab ticket collectors and the lazy 
condition and innate viciousness of Egyptian porters 
as a class, I mentioned incidentally that I had ob- 
served a funeral leaving Rikka. 

The station master (who was bursting to talk 
about this very matter, but who would have declined 
on principle to do so had I definitely questioned 
him) now unfolded to me the strange particulars 
respecting the death of one, Ahmed Abdulla, who 
had been a retired dragoman though some time 
employed as an excavator. 

''He rode out one night upon his white donkey," 
said my informant, "and no man knows whither 
he went. But it is believed, Kernaby Pasha, that 
it was to the Haram el-Kaddab'' (the False 
Pyramid) — extending his hand to where, beyond 
the belt of fertility, the tomb of Sneferu up-reared 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 41 

its three platforms from the fringe of the desert. 
*'To enter the pyramid even in day time is to court 
misfortune; to enter at night is to fall into the 
hands of the powerful Efreet who dwells there. 
His donkey returned without him, and therefore 
search was made for Ahmed Ahdulla. He was found 
the next day" — as^ain the long arm shot out towards 
the desert — **dead upon the sands, near the foot of 
the pyramid." 

I looked into the face of the speaker; beyond 
doubt he was in deadly earnest. 

''Why should Ahmed Abdulla have wanted to 
visit such a place at night f I asked. 

My acquaintance lowered his voice, muttered 
"Sahdm Allah fee 'adoo ed—dm!" (May God trans- 
fix the enemies of the religion) and touched his 
forehead, his mouth, and his breast with the iron 
ring which he wore. 

''There is a great treasure concealed there, 
Kemaby Pasha," he replied; "a treasure hidden 
from the world in the days of Suleyman the Great, 
sealed with his seal, and guarded by the servants 
of Gann Ibn-Gann." 

"So you think the guardian ginn killed Ahmed 
Abdulla?" 

The station master muttered invocations, and — 

"There are things which may not be spoken of," 
he said; "but those who saw him dead say that 
he was terrible to look upon. A great Welee, a man 
of wisdom famed throughout Egypt, has been 
summoned to avert the evil; for if the anger of 



42 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

the ginn is aroused they may visit the most painful 
and unfortunate penalties upon all Rikka. . . /' 

Half an hour later I set out, having confidentially 
informed the station master that I sought to obtain 
a fine turquoise necklet which I knew to be in the 
possession of the Sheikh of Meydum. Little did I 
suspect how it was written that I should indeed 
visit the house of the venerable Sheikh. Out through 
the fields of young green corn, the palm groves and 
the sycamore orchards I rode, Hassan plodding 
silently behind me and leading the donkey who bore 
the baggage. Curious eyes watched our passage, 
from field, doorway, and sliaduf; but nothing of note 
marked our journey save the tremendous heat of the 
sun at noon, beneath which I knew myself a fool 
to travel. 

I camped on the western side of the pyramid, but 
w^ell clear of the marshes, which are the home of 
countless wild-fowl. I had no idea how long it would 
take me to extract the coveted ring from its hiding- 
place (which Hassan had closely described to me) ; 
and, remembering the speculative glances of the 
villagers, I had no intention of exposing myself 
against the face of the pyramid until dusk should 
have come to cloak my operations. 

Hassan es-Sugra, whose new taciturnity was re- 
makable and whose behavior was dsitinguished by 
an odd disquiet, set out with his gun to procure our 
dinner, and I mounted the sandy slope on the south- 
west of the pyramid, where from my cover behind 
a mound of rubbish, I studied through my field- 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 43 

glasses the belt of vegetation marking the course of 
the Nile. I could detect no sign of surveillance, 
but in view of the fact that the smuggling of relics 
out of Egypt is a punishable offence my caution was 
dictated by wisdom. 

We dined excellently, Hassan the Silent and I, 
upon quail, tinned tomatoes, fresh dates, bread, and 
Vichy- water (to which in my own case was added a 
stiff three fingers of whisky). 

When the newly risen moon cast an ebon shadow 
of the Pyramid of Sneferu upon the carpet of the 
sands, I made my way around the angle of the ancient 
building towards the mound on the northern side 
whereby one approaches the entrance. Three paces 
from the shadow's edge, I paused, transfixed, be- 
cause of that which confronted me. 

Outlined against the moon-bright sky upon a ridge 
of the desert behind and to the north of the great 
structure, stood the motionless figure of a man ! 

For a moment I thought that my mind had con- 
jured up this phantasmal watcher, that he was a 
thing of moon-magic and not of flesh and blood. 
But as I stood regarding him, he moved, seemed 
to raise his head, then turned and disappeared be- 
yond the crest. 

How long I remained staring at the spot where 
he had been I know not; but I was aroused from 
my useless contemplation by the jingling of camel 
bells. The sound came from behind me, stealing 
sweetly through the stillness from a great distance. 
I turned in a flash, whipped out my glasses and 



44 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

searched the remote fringe of the Fayum. Stately 
across the jeweled curtain of the night moved a 
caravan, blackly marked against that wondrous back- 
ground. Three walking figures I counted, three 
laden donkeys, and two camels. Upon the first of 
the camols a man was mounted, upon the second 
was a shibreeyeh, a sort of covered litter, which I 
knew must conceal a woman. The caravan passed 
out of sight into the palm grove which conceals the 
village of Meydum. 

I returned my glasses to their case, and stood for 
some moments deep in reflection; then I descended 
the slope, to the tiny encampment where I had left 
Hassan es-Sugra. He was nowhere to be seen ; andi 
having waited some ten minutes I grew impatient, 
and raising my voice : 

*^ Hassan!'^ I cried; ** Hassan es-Sugra I" 

No answer greeted me, although in the desert 
stillness the call must have been audible for miles. 
A second and a third time I called his name . . . 
and the only reply was the shrill note of a pyramid 
bat that swooped low above my head; the vast soli- 
tude of the sands swallowed up my voice and the 
walls of the Tomb of Sneferu mocked me with their 
echo, crying eerily: 

** Hassan! Hassan es-Sugra. . . . Hassan! . . ." 



m 

This mysterious episode affected me unpleasantly, 
but did not divert me from my purpose: I sue- 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 45 

ceeded in casting out certain demons of superstition 
who had sought to lay hold upon me ; and a prolonged 
scrutiny of the surrounding desert somewhat allayed 
toy fears of human surveillance. For my visit to 
the chamber in the heart of the ancient building I 
had arrayed myself in rubber-soled shoes, an old 
pair of drill trousers, and a pyjama jacket. A Colt 
repeater was in my hip pocket, and, in addition to 
several instruments which I thought might be useful 
in extracting the ring from its setting, I carried a 
powerful electric torch. 

Seated on the threshold of the entrance, fifty feet 
above the desert level, I cast a final glance back- 
ward towards the Nile valley, then, the lighted torch 
carried in my jacket pocket, I commenced the descent 
of the narrow, sloping passage. Periodically, when 
some cranny between the blocks offered a foothold, 
I checked my progress, and inspected the steep path 
below for snake tracks. 

Some two hundred and forty feet of labored 
descent discovered me in a sort of shallow cavern 
little more than a yard high and partly hewn out 
of the living rock which formed the foundation of 
the pyramid. In this place I found the heat to be 
almost insufferable, and the smell of remote 
mortality which assailed my nostrils from the 
sand-strewn floor threatened to choke me. For five 
minutes or more I lay there, bathed in perspiration, 
my nerves at high tension, listening for the slightest 
sound within or without. I cannot pretend that I 
was entirely master of myself. The stuff that fear 



46 TALES OP SECRET EGYPT 

is made of seemed to rise from the ancient dust ; and 
I had little relish for the second part of my journey, 
which lay through a long horizontal passage rarely 
exceeding fourteen inches in height. The mere 
memory of that final crawl of forty feet or so is 
sufficient to cause me to perspire profusely; there- 
fore let it suffice that I reached the end of the second 
passage, and breathing with difficulty the deathful, 
poisonous atmosphere of the place, found myself at 
the foot of the rugged shaft which gives access to the 
King's Chamber. Resting my torch upon a con- 
venient ledge, I climbed up, and knew myself to be 
in one of the oldest chambers fashioned by human 
handiwork. 

The journey had been most exhausing, but, allow- 
ing myseli only a few moments' rest, I crossed to 
the eastern corner of the place and directed a ray 
of light upon the cre\'ice which, from Hassan's de- 
scription, I believed to conceal the ring. His account 
having been detailed, I experienced little difficulty 
in finding the cavity; but in the very moment of 
success the light of the torch grew dim . . . and I 
recognized with a mingling of chagrin and fear that 
it was burnt out and that I had no means of re- 
charging it. 

Ere the light expired, I had time to realize two 
things: that the cavity was empty . . . and that 
someone or something was approaching the foot 
of the shaft along the horizontal passage below ! 

Strictly though I have schooled my emotions, my 
heart was beating in a most uncomfortable fashion* 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 47 

as, crouching near the edge of the shaft, I watched 
the red glow fade from the delicate filament of the 
lamp. Retreat was impossible; there is but one 
entrance to the pyramid; and the darkness which 
now descended upon me was indescribable; it pos- 
sessed horrific qualities ; it seemed palpably to enfold 
me like the wings of some monstrous bat. The air 
of the King's Chamber I found to be almost unbear- 
able, and it was no steady hand with which I gripped 
my pistol. 

The sounds of approach continued. The suspense 
was becoming intolerable — ^when, into the Memphian 
gloom below me, there suddenly intruded a faint 
but ever-growing light. Between excitement and 
insufficient air, I regarded suffocation as imminent. 
Then, out into view beneath me, was thrust a slim 
ivory hand which held an electric pocket lamp. 
Fascinatedly I watched it, saw it joined by its fellow, 
then observed a white-turbaned head and a pair of 
black-robed shoulders follow. In my surprise I 
almost dropped the weapon which I held. The new 
arrival now standing upright and raising his head, 
I found myself looking into the face of Abu 
Tahdh! 

**To Allah, the Great, the Compassionate, be all 
praise that I have found you alive, ' ' he said simply. 

He exhibited little evidence of the journey which 
I had found so fatiguing, but an expression strongly 
like that of real anxiety rested upon his ascetic face. 

**If life is dear to you,'' he continued, *^ answer 
me this, Kernaby Pasha; have you found the ring?'* 



46 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

'*I have not,** I replied; **my lamp failed mej but 
I think the ring is gone.'' 

And now, as I spoke the words, the strangeness 
of his question came home to me, bringing with it an 
acute suspicion. 

**What do you know of this ring, O my friend?'* 
I asked. 

Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders. 

**I know much that is evil," he replied; ''and 
because you doubt the purity of my motives, all 
that I have learned you shall learn also; for Allah 
the Great, the Merciful, this night has protected 
you from danger and spared you a frightful death. 
Follow me, Kernaby Pasha, in order that these 
things may be made manifest to you. ' ' 

IV 

A pair of fleet camels were kneeling at the foot 
of the slope below the entrance to the pyramid- 
and having recovered somewhat from the effect of 
the fatiguing climb out from the King's Chamber— 

**It might be desirable," I said, ''that I adopt 
a more suitable raiment for camel riding?" 

Abu Tabah slowly shook his head in that dignified 
manner which never deserted him. He had again 
taken up his ebony walking-stick and was now rest- 
ing his crossed hands upon it and regarding me with 
his strange, melancholy eyes. 

"To delay would be unwise," he replied. "You 
have mercifully been spared a painful and unfor- 
tunate end (all praise to Him who averted the 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 4S 

peril) ; but the ring, which bears an ancient curse, 
is gone : for me there is no rest until I have found 
and destroyed it/' 

He spoke with a solemn conviction which bore 
the seal of verity. 

**Your destructive theory may be perfectly 
sound," I said; *^but as one professionally interested 
in relics of the past, I feel called upon to protest. 
Perhaps before we proceed any further you will 
enL'ghten me respecting this most obscure matter. 
Can you inform me, for example, what became of 
Hassan es-Sugra?" 

**He observed my approach from a distance, and 
fled, being a man of little virtue. Respecting the 
other matters you shall be fully enlightened, to-night 
The white camel is for you. ' ' 

There was a gentle finality in his manner to which 
I succumbed. My feelings towards this mysterious 
being had undergone a slight change; and whilst I 
cannot truthfully say that I loved him as a brother, 
a certain respect for Abu Tabah was taking pos- 
session of my mind. I began to understand his repu- 
tation with the natives; beyond doubt his uncanny 
wisdom was impressive; his lofty dignity awei 
And no man is at his best arrayed in canvas shoes> 
very dirty drill trousers, and a pyjama jacket. 

As I had anticipated, the village of Meydum 
proved to be our destination, and the gait of the 
magnificent creatures upon which we were mounted 
was exhausting. I shall always remember that 
moonlight ride across the desert to the palm groves 



50 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

of Meydum. I entered the house of the Sheikh with 
misgivings; for my attire fell short of the ideal to 
which every representative of protective Britain 
looks up, but often fails to realize. 

In a mandarah, part of it inlaid with fine mosaic 
and boasting a pretty fountain, I was presented to 
the imposing old man who was evidently the host 
of Abu Tabah. Ere taking my seat upon the dhuan, 
I shed my canvas shoes, in accordance with custom, 
accepted a pipe and a cup of excellent coffee, and 
awaited with much curiosity the next development. 
A brief colloquy between Abu Tabah and the Sheikh, 
at the further end of the apartment resulted in the 
disappearance of the Sheikh and the approach of 
my mysterious friend. 

** Because, although you are not a Moslem, you 
are a man of culture and understanding, ' ' said Abu 
Tabah, *^I have ordered that my sister shall be 
brought into your presence." 

*^That is exceedingly good of you,'' I said, but 
indeed I knew it to be an honor which spoke volumes 
at once for Abu Tabah 's enlightenment and good 
opinion of myself. 

**She is a virgin of great beauty," he continued; 
**and the excellence of her mind exceeds the perfec- 
tion of her person." 

**I congratulate you," I answered politely, *'upon 
the possession of a sister in every way so desirable." 

Abu Tabah inclined his head in a characteristic 
gesture of gentle courtesy. 

** Allah has indeed blessed my house," he ad- 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERIJ 51 

mitted; **and because your mind is filled with con- 
jectures respecting the source of certain information 
which you know me to possess, I desire that the 
matter shall be made clear to you." 

How I should have answered this singular man 
I know not; but as he spoke the words, into the 
mandarah came the Sheikh, followed by a girl robed 
and veiled entirely in white. With gait slow and 
graceful she approached the diwan. She wore a 
white yelek so closely wrapped about her that it 
concealed the rest of her attire, and a white tarhar, 
or head- veil, decorated with gold embroidery, almost 
entirely concealed her hair, save for one jet-black 
plait in which little gold ornaments were entwined 
and which hung down on the left of her forehead. 
A white yashmak reached nearly to her feet, which 
were clad in little red leather slippers. 

As she approached me I was impressed, not so 
much with the details of her white attire, nor with 
the fine lines of a graceful figure which the gossamer 
robe quite failed to conceal, but with her wonderful 
gazelle-like eyes, which were uncannily like those 
of her brother, save that their bordering of hoM lent 
them an appearance of being larger and morei 
luminous. 

No form of introduction was observed; with 
modestly lowered eyes the girl saluted me and took 
her seat upon a heap of cushions before a small 
coffee table set at one end of the diwan. The Sheikh 
seated himself beside me, and Abu Tabah, with a 
reed pen, wrote something rapidly on a narrow strip 



52 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

of paper. The Sheikh clapped his hands, a man 
entered bearing a brazier containing live charcoal, 
and, having placed it upon the floor, immediately 
withdrew. The diwan was lighted by a lantern 
swung from the ceiling, and its light, pouring fully 
down upon the white figure of the girl, and leaving 
the other persons and objects in comparative shadow, 
produced a picture which I am unlikely to forget. 

Amid a tense silence, Abu Tabah took from a box 
upon the table some resinous substance. This he 
sprinkled upon the fire in the brazier; and the girl 
extending a small hand and round soft arm across 
the table, he again dipped his pen in the ink and drew 
upon the upturned palm a rough square which ho 
divided into nine parts, writing in each an Arabic 
figure. Finally, in the centre he poured a small 
drop of ink, upon which, in response to words rapidly 
spoken, the girl fixed an intent gaze. 

Into the brazier Abu Tabah dropped one by one 
fragments of the paper upon which he had written 
what I presumed to be a form of invocation. Im- 
mediately, standing between the smoking brazier and 
the girl, he commenced a subdued muttering. I 
recognized that I was about to be treated to an exhibi- 
tion of darh el-mendel, Abu Tabah being evidently 
a sahhar, or adept in the art called er-roohdnee. Save 
for this indistinct muttering, no other sound dis- 
turbed the silence of the apartment, until suddenly 
the girl began to speak Arabic and in a sweet but 
monotonous voice. 

** Again I see the ring,'' she said, *^a hand is 



THE DEATH-RING OP SNEFERU 53 

holding it before me. The ring bears a green scarab, 
upon which is written the name of a king of 
Egypt. . . . The ring is gone. lean see it no more." 

**Seek it/' directed Abu Tabah in a low voice, 
and threw more incense upon the fire. **Are you 
seeking it?" 

**Yes," replied the girl, who now began to tremble 
violently, *^I am in a low passage which slopes 
downwards so steeply that I am afraid." 

**Fear nothing," said Abu Tabah; ^'follow the 
passage." 

With marvelous fidelity the girl described the pass- 
age and the shaft leading to the King's Chamber in 
the Pyramid of Meydum. She described the cavity 
in the wall where once (if Hassan es-Sugra was 
worthy of credence) the ring had been concealed. 

* * There is a freshly made hole in the stonework, ' ' 
she said. **The picture has gone; I am standing 
in some dark place and the same hand again holds 
the ring before me. ' ' 

*'Is it the hand of an Oriental," asked Abu Tabah, 
**or of a European?" 

**It is the hand of a European. It has disap- 
peared; I see a funeral procession winding out from 
Rikka into the desert." 

*^ Follow the ring," directed Abu Tabah, a queer, 
compelling note in his voice. 

Again he sprinkled perfume upon the fire and — 

*^I see a Pharaoh upon his throne," continued the 
monotonous voice, **upon the first finger of his left 
hand he wears the ring with the green scarab. A 



54 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

prisoner stands before him in chains; a woman 
pleads with the king, but he is deaf to her. He 
draws the ring from his finger and hands it to one 
standing behind the throne — one who has a very 
evil face. Ahi ..." 

The girPs voice died away in a low wail of fear 
or horror. But — 

**What do you see!" demanded Abu Tabah. 

**The death-ring of Pharaoh!'' whispered the soft 
Toice tremulously; *4t is the death-ring!" 

** Return from the past to the present," ordered 
Abu Tabah. ' * Where is the ring now ? ' ' 

He continued his weird muttering, whilst the girl, 
who still shuddered violently, peered again into the 
pool of ink. Suddenly — 

'*I see a long line of dead men," she whispered, 
speaking in a kind of chant; **they are of all the 
races of the East, and some are swathed in mummy 
wrappings ; the wrappings are sealed with the death- 
ring of Pharaoh. They are passing me slowly, on 
their way across the desert from the Pyramid of 
Meydum to a narrow ravine where a tent is erected. 
They go to summon one who is about to join their 
company. ..." 

I suppose the suffocating perfume of the burning 
incense was chiefly responsible, but at this point I 
realized that I was becoming dizzy and that immedi- 
ate departure into a cooler atmosphere was impera- 
tive. Quietly, in order to avoid disturbing the 
seance, I left the mandarah. So absorbed were the 
three in their weird performance that my departure 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 55 

was apparently nnnoticed Out in the coolness of 
the pahn grove I soon recovered. I doubt if I 
possess the temperament which enables one to con- 
template with equanimity a number of dead men 
promenading in their shrouds. 



**The truth is now wholly made manifest, '^ said 
Abu Tabah; ^Hhe revelation is complete.'' 

Once more I was mounted upon the white camel 
and the mysterious imam rode beside me upon its 
fellow, which was of less remarkable color. 

**I hear your words," I replied. 

**The poor Ahmed Abdulla," he continued, **who 
was of little wisdom, knew, as Hassan es-Sugra 
knew, of the hidden ring; for he was one of those 
who fled from the pyramid refusing to enter it again. 
Greed spoke to him, however, and he revealed the 
secret to a certain Englishman, called Bishop, con- 
tracting to aid him in recovering the ring. ' ' 

At last enlightenment was mine . . . and it 
brought in its train a dreadful premonition. 

* * Something I knew of the peril, ' ' said Abu Tabah, 
**but not, at first, all. The Englishman I warned, 
but he neglected my warning. Already Ahmed 
Abdulla was dead, having been despatched by his em- 
ployer to the pyramid ; and the people of Rikka had 
sent for me. Now, by means known to you, I learned 
that evil powers threatened your life also, in what 
form I knew not at that time save that the sign of 



56 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

Set had been revealed to me in conjunction with 
your death. ' ' 

I shuddered. 

**That the secret of the pyramid was a Pharaoh's 
ring I did not leam until later ; but now it is made 
manifest that the thing of power is the death-ring 
of Sneferu. . . /' 

The huge bulk of the Pyramid of Meydum loomed 
above us as he spoke the words, for we were nearly 
come to our destination; and its proximity oc- 
casioned within me a physical chill. I do not thinfe 
an open check for a thousand pounds would have 
tempted me to enter the place again. The death- 
ring of Sneferu possessed uncomfortable and super- 
natural properties. So far as I was aware, no ex- 
ample of such a ring (the lettre de cachet of the 
period) was included in any known collection. One 
dating much after Sneferu, and bearing the car- 
touche of Apepi II (one of the Hyksos, or Shepherti 
Kings) came to light late in the nineteenth century; 
it was reported to be the ring which, traditionally, 
Joseph wore as emblematical of the power vested 
in him by Pharaoh. Sir Gaston Maspero and other 
authorities considered it to be a forgery and it 
vanished from the ken of connoisseurs. I never 
learned by what firm it was manufactured. 

A mile to the west of the pyramid we found Theo 
Bishop 's encampment. I thought it to be deserted — • 
until I entered the little tent. . . . 

An oil-lamp stood upon a wooden box; and its 
rays made yellow the face of the man stretched 



THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 57 

upon the camp-bed. My premonition was realized; 
Bishop must have entered the pyramid less than an 
hour ahead of me; he it was who had stood upon 
the mound, silhouetted against the sky, when I had 
first approached the slope. He had met with the 
fate of Ahmed Abdulla. 

He had been dead for at least two hours, and by 
the token of certain hideous glandular swellings, 
I knew that he had met his end by the bite of an 
Egyptian viper. 

**Abu Tabah!^' I cried, my voice hoarsely un- 
natural — *'the recess in the King's Chamber is a 
viper's nest!" 

**You speak wisdom, Kernaby Pasha; the viper 
is the servant of the ginn," 

Upon the third finger of his swollen right hand 
Bishop wore the ring of ghastly history; and the 
mysterious significance of the Sign of Set became 
apparent. For added to the usual cartouche of the 
Pharaoh was the symbol of the god of destruction, 
thus: 




We buried him deeply, piling stones upon the 
grave, that the jackals of the desert might never 
disturb the last holder of the death-ring of Snef eriL 



m 

THE LADY OF THE LATTICE. 



THE interior of the room was very dark, bnt 
with the aid of the electric torch which I 
carried I was enabled to form a fairly good 
impression of its general character, and having now 
surveyed the entire house I had concluded that it 
might possibly serve my purpose. The real owner- 
ship of many native houses in Cairo is difncult to 
establish, and the unveracious Egyptian from whom 
I had procured the keys may or may not have been 
entitled to let the premises. However, he had the 
keys; and that in the Near East is a sufficient evi- 
dence of ownership. My vievang the place at night 
was dictated by motives of prudence ; for I did not 
propose unduly to impress my personality upon the 
inhabitants of the Darb el-Ahmar. 

Curiosity respecting the outlook at the rear now 
led me to enter the deep recess at one end of the 
room, which boasted an imperfect but not unpictur- 
esque miishrahiyeh window. ]\roonlight slanted 
down into the narrow lane which the window over- 
hung and cast a quaint fretwork shadow upon the 
dusty floor at my feet. Idly I opened one of the 
little square lattices and peered do\vn into the 
shadowy gully beneath. The lane was silent and 

58 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 59 

empty, and I next directed my attention to a similar 
window which protruded from the adjoining house. 

A panel corresponding to mine stood open also 
in the neighboring window ; and by means of a soft 
light in the room I detected the head and shoulders 
of a woman, who, her arm resting upon the ledge, 
surveyed the vacant night. 

By reason of her position, whilst her hand and 
arm lay fully in the moonlight, her face and figure 
were indistinct. I, on the contrary, was clearly 
visible to her, and although I knew that she must 
have seen me she made no effort to withdraw. On 
the contrary, she leaned artlessly forward as if to 
gaze upon the stars, permitting me a sight of her 
unveiled face and of a portion of her shapely neck. 

Her eyes, as is usual with Egyptian women, were 
large and fine, and as is usual with all women, she 
was aware of the fact, casting glances upward and 
to the right and left calculated to exhibit their 
beauty. 

trhe coquetry of her movements was unmistakable ; 
and when, lifting a pretty arm, she brushed aside a 
lock of hair which overhung her brow and uttered a 
tremulous sigh, I perceived that I had found favor 
in her sight. 

And indeed the graceful gesture had inclined my 
heart towards her; for it had served to reveal not 
only the symmetry of her shape but the presence 
upon her arm, immediately above the elbow, of a 
magnificent bangle in gold and lapis-lazuli, whichj 
if I might trust my judgment, was fashioned no 



60 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

later than the XlXth dynasty! Clearly the i&onse 
next door, and its occupant, were the property of 
some man of wealth and taste. 

There is a maxim in the East — ** Avoid the veil'*; 
and to this hitherto I had paid the strictest . atten- 
tion. Soft glances from harem windows usually 
leave me cold. But the presence of an armlet finer 
than anything in the Treasure of Zagazig placed a 
new complexion upon this affair, and the connoisseur 
within me took the matter out of my hands. 

Across the intervening patch of darkness our 
glances met; the girPs dark lashes were lowered 
demurely, then raised again, and the boldness of 
my unfaltering gaze w^as rewarded by a smile. Thus 
encouraged : — 

*^0 daughter of the moon," I whispered fanci- 
fully in Arabic, *^ condescend to speak to one whom 
the sight of thy beauty hath enslaved. ' ' 

*^I fear to be discovered, Inglisi,'* came the soft 
reply; ^*or willingly would I converse with thee, 
for I am lonely and wretched. ' ' 

She sighed again and directed upon me a glance 
that was less wretched than roguish. Evidently 
the adventure was much to her liking. 

*^Let me solace your loneliness," I replied; **for 
assuredly we can conceive some plan of meeting." 

She lowered her eyes at that, and seemed to 
hesitate ; then — 

*'In the roof of your house," she whispered, often 
glancing over her shoulder into the room beyond^ 
**is a trap — ^which is bolted. . . ," 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 61 

Footsteps sounded in the lane beneath — ^whereat 
the vision at the window vanished and the lattice 
was closed; bnt not before the girl had intimated 
by a gesture that I was to remain. 

Discreetly withdrawing into my dusty apartment, 
I endeavored to make out the form of the intruder 
who now was passing underneath the window; but 
the density of the shadows in the lane rendered it 
impossible for me to do so. He seemed to pause 
for a time and I imagined that I could see him star- 
ing upward; then he passed on and silence agaui 
claimed that deserted quarter of Cairo. 

For fully half an hour I waited, and was prepar- 
ing to depart when a part of the shadows overlying 
the projecting window seemed to grow blacker, and 
I realized with joy that at last the lattice was reopen- 
ing, but that the room within was now in darkness. 
"Whilst I watched, remaining scrupulously invisible^ 
a small parcel deftly thrown dropped upon the floor 
at my feet — and my neighbor's window was reclosed. 

Closing my own, I picked up the parcel. It proved 
to be a small ivory box, which at some time had 
evidently contained kohl, wrapped in a piece of silk 
and containing a note. Returning to the lower floor 
I directed the light of my electric torch upon this 
charmingly romantic billet. It was conceived in 
English and characterized by the rather alarming 
naivete of the Oriental woman. I give it in its 
entirety. 

** To-morrow night, nine o'clock.** 



j62 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 



My cantious inqniries respecting the house in the 
Darb el-Ahmar led only to the discovery that it 
belonged to a mysterious personage whose . real 
identity was unknown even to his servants ; but this 
did not particularly intrigue me; for in the East 
the maintenance of two entirely self-contained es- 
tablishments is not more uncommon than in countries 
less generously provided in the matter of marriage 
laws. After all the taking of a second wife does not 
so much depend on a man's religious convictions as 
upon his first wife. 

Eeflecting upon the probable history of the armlet 
of lapis-lazuli, I returned to Shepheard's in time 
to keep my appointment with Joseph Malaglou — a 
professed Christian who claimed to be of Greek 
parentage. I may explain here that it was necessary 
to provide for the safe conduct through the customs 
and elsewhere of those cases of *^ Sheffield cutlery'* 
which actually contained the scarabs, necklaces, and 
other *' antiques," the sale of which formed a part 
of the business of my firm. Joseph Malaglou had 
hitherto successfully conducted this matter for me, 
receiving the goods and storing them at his own 
warehouse; but for various reasons I had decided 
in future to lease an establishment of my own for 
this purpose. 

He was waiting in the lounge as I entered, and 
had he been less useful to me I think I should have 
Jiad him thrown out; for if ever a swarthy villain 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 63 

iBtepped forth from the pages of an illustrated 
**peiiny dreadful," that swarthy villain was Joseph 
Malaglou. He approached me with outstretched 
hand; he was perniciously polite; his ingratiatii^ 
smile fired my soul with a lust of blood. Fortun- 
ately, our business was brief. 

**The latest consignment is in the hands of my 
agent at Alexandria,*' he said, **and if you are still 
determined that the ten cases shall be despatched 
to you direct, I will instruct him; but you cannot 
very well have them sent here." 

He shrugged and smiled, glancing all about the 
lounge. 

**I have no intention of converting Shepheard's 
Hotel into a cutlery warehouse," I replied. **I will 
advise you in the morning of the address to which 
the cases should be despatched." 

Joseph Malaglou was palpably disturbed — a mys- 
terious circumstance, since, whilst I had made no 
mention of reducing his fees, under the new arrange- 
ment he would be saved trouble and storage. 

**As delay in these matters is unwise," he urged, 
**why not have the goods despatched immediately, 
and consigned to you at my address?" 

There was reason on the iman's side, for I had 
not yet actually leased the house in the Darb el- 
lAhmar; therefore — 

**I will sleep on the problem," I said, ''and ooitti 
municate my decision in the morning. ' ' 

I stood on the steps watching him depart, a mafi 
palpably disturbed in mind; indeed his behavior 



6i TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

|iras altogether singular, and could only portend one 
thing — knavery. I think it highly probable that the 
pttoman Empire had a certain claim upon Joseph 
Malaglou. He was one of those nondescript brutes 
irhose mere existence is a menace to our rule in 
the Near East. He openly applauded British 
methods, and was the worst possible advertisement 
for the cause he claimed to have espoused. Altogether 
he left me in an uneasy mood ; so that shortly after 
the third, or daybreak, call to prayer had sounded 
from Cairo's minarets on the morrow, I had 
arranged to lease the house in the Darb el-Ahmar 
'for a period of three months, in the name of one 
Ahmed Ben Tawwab, a mythical friend, and had 
instructed Joseph Malaglou accordingly. 

Other affairs claimed my attention throughout the 
day; but dusk discovered me at my newly acquired 
house in the quaint street adjoining the Bab ez- 
Zuwela. I procured the keys from the venerable old 
thief who had leased me the premises and learned 
from him that a representative of Joseph Malaglou 
had been admitted to the house earlier in the evening, 
in accordance with my instructions, and had de- 
livered a load of boxes there. 

Thus, on opening the door, I was not surprised 
to find the ten cases from Alexandria lying within, 
neatly labelled : 

To Ahmed Ben Tawwab, 

Darb el-Ahmar, 

Sukkariya, 

Cairo. 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 65 

Ascending to the top floor, I mounted the rickety 
ladder and unbolted and opened the trap. A cautious 
glance to the right revealed the fact that little diffi- 
culty existed in passing from roof to roof; for in 
Egyptian houses these are flat and are used for 
various domestic purposes. I consulted my watch: 
the hour of the tryst was come. 

And even as I learned the fact, from my neigh- 
bor's roof sounded the faint creaking of hinges 
. . . and out into the moonlight stepped an odd 
figure — that of the lady of the lattice, dressed in a 
** European" blue serge costume which had obvious- 
ly been purchased, ready made, in the bazaars! 
She wore high-heeled French shoes upon her pretty 
feet and her picturesque hair was concealed beneath 
a large Panama hat, from the brim of which floated 
one of those voluminous green veils dear to the 
heart of touring woman and so arranged as to hide 
her face. Only the gleam of her eyes and teeth was 
visible through the gauze. 

I assisted her to step across, wondering since she 
was thus attired, to what crazy expedition I was 
committed. 

** Please do not kiss me," she whispered, speaking 
in moderately good English, **Fatimah is listening I" 

Such ingenuousness was rather alarming. 

**But," I replied, *^you have left the trap open." 

*'It is all right. Fatimah has locked the door of 
my room and will admit no one, because I have a 
headache and am sleeping 1" 

Resting her hand confidingly in mine, she da^ 



€6 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

scended the ladder into the adjoining house, and, 
removing the veil from her face, looked up at me. 

'*You will be kind to me, will you not!*' she 
asked. 

I suppose a lengthy essay upon the mentality of 
Oriental womanhood would serve no purpose here, 
therefore I refrain from inserting it. Seated upon 
the chests in the room below, Mizmuna — for this 
was her name — confided her troubles with perturb- 
ing frankness. She had conceived a characteristic- 
ally Eastern and sudden infatuation for my society; 
nor am I prepared to maintain that she would have 
remained obdurate to anyone else who had been 
in a position to unbolt the door which offered the 
only chance of escape from her prison. The house 
of mystery, she informed me, belonged to a person 
styling himself Yussuf of Rosetta (a name that 
sounded factitious) and she hated him. For two 
months, I gathered, she had been in Cairo, during 
which time she had never passed beyond the walls 
of the neighboring courtyard. And the object of 
her nocturnal adventure was innocent enough; she 
wanted to see the European shops and the tourists 
passing in and out of the big hotels in the Sharia 
Kamel Pasha I 

m 

It was as we passed along the Sharia el-Maghribi, 
where I had pointed out the St. James 's Restaurant, 
letter known as ** Jimmy's," I remember, that 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 67 

Mizmuna nttered a little, suppressed cry, and 
clutched my arm sharply. 

'*OhI'' she whispered fearfully, **it is Hannal 
and he has seen me ! ' ' 

With frightened, fascinated eyes she was staring 
across the street, apparently at a group of curiously 
muffled natives — and her whole body was trembling. 

"Quick I'' she said, pulling me urgently, *'take 
me back I if they find me they will kill me I ' ' 

"But if they have already seen you '* 

"Oh! take me back," she entreated piteously, 
^*Hanna must not find out where I live." 

Here was mystery; but evidently my first dread- 
ful theory that Hanna was Mizmuna 's husband 
had been incorrect. Apparently he was not even 
acquainted with Yussuf of Rosetta. But whoever 
or whatever he might be, I silently cursed the lapis 
armlet which had led me to involve myself in his 
affairs, as I hurried my companion across the Place 
de 1 'Opera and homeward, . . . 

We were come indeed unmolested but breathless, 
as near our destination as that nameless street 
beside the Mosque of Muayyad, when Mizmuna 
suddenly stopped, uttered a stifled shriek, and — 

"Oh, save me!" she panted, winding her arms 
about my neck. "Look! Look! in the shadow of 
the mosque door!" 

Panic threatened me for one fleeting moment; 
for this part of Cairo is utterly deserted at night 
and the mystery of the thing was taking toll of my 
nerves ; then firmly unclasping the trembling arms,. 



68 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

I pushed Mizmuna behind me and snatched ont 
mj Colt automatic ... as a group of muffled 
figures became magically detached from the shadows 
that had hidden them ; and began silently to advance. 

I raised the pistol. 

''Ushur!" I cried ''am eh?" (Stop! what do 
you want?) 

They halted at once; but no answering voice 
broke the uncanny silence in which they regarded 
me. Mizmuna plucked at my arm. 

** Quick! Quick !'^ she whispered tremulously, 
* ^ the keys ! the keys ! * ' 

I was swift to grasp her meaning. 

**My right pocket!^' I whispered in answer. 

The girPs shaking hand groped for the keys, 
found them; and, uttering no parting word, 
Mizmuna darted off along the Sukkariya, which 
here bisects the Darb el-Ahmar. An angry mutter- 
img arose from the little knot of oddly muffled 
figures, but not one of them had the courage to 
attempt a pursuit of the fugitive. Keeping my 
back to the wall of the mosque and feeling along it 
with one hand outstretched, I began to back away 
from the attacking party; intending to take to 
my heels along the first lane I came to. 

This plan was sound enough; its weakness lay 
in the fact that I could make no proper survey of 
that which lay immediately behind me. The result 
was that I backed into someone who must have 
b#en stealthily approaching from the rear. 

I knew nothing of his presence until he suddenly 



THE JjADY op the LATTICE 69 

threw himself upon from behind, and I was down 
on mj face in the dust! My pistol was jerked out 
of my hand, and, still preserving that unbroken dis- 
concerting silence, the muffled group bore down 
upon me. 

I gave myself up for lost. My unseen assailant, 
who seemingly possessed wrists of steel, jerked my 
right hand up into the region of my shoulder-blades 
and pinioned my left arm so as to render me help- 
less as an infant. Then two of the muffled Nubians 
— for Nubians the moonlight now showed them to be 
— raised me to my feet, and the grip from behind 
was removed. 

That I had unwittingly intruded upon the amouns 
of some wealthy and unscrupulous pasha I no 
longer doubted; and knowing somewhat of the 
ways of outraged lovers of the East, the mental 
vision which arose before me was unpleasing to 
contemplate. Yet even the extravagant picture 
which my imagination had painted fell short of 
the ferocious reality. For even as I was lifted 
upright, in the grasp of my huge guards, a door in 
the side of the neighboring mosque burst open, 
and there sprang into view an excessively tall, 
excessively lean and hawk-faced old man carrying 
a naked scimitar in his hand. 

He possessed eyes like the eyes of an eagle, and 
a thin, hooked nose having dilated, quivering 
nostrils. In three huge strides he reached me, 
towered over me like some evil girmee of Arabian 
lore, and raised his gleaming scimitar with th© 



70 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

nnmistakable intention of severing my head from 
my trunk at a single blow ! 

I think I have never experienced an identical 
sensation in my life; my tongue clave to the roof 
of my mouth; my heart suspended its functions; 
and I felt my eyes start forward in their sockets. 
I had not thought my constitution capable of such 
profound and helpless fear, nor had I hitherto paid 
proper respect to the memory of Charles I. I 
would gladly have closed my eyes in order that I 
might not witness the downward sweep of the fatal 
blade, but the lids seemed to be paralysed. Never 
whilst memory serves me can I forget one detail 
of the appearance of that frightful old devil; 
and never can I forget my gratitude to that 
unseen captor, the man who had seized me from 
behind, and who now, alone, averted the blade from 
my neck. 

Over my head he lunged — with an ebony stick 
— and skilfully; so that the pointed ferrule came 
well and truly into contact with the knuckles of my 
would-be executioner. The weapon fell, jingling, 
at my feet . . . and a slim, black-robed figure was 
suddenly interposed between myself and the furious 
old Arab. 

It was Abu Tabah! 

Dignified, unruffled, his classically beautiful 
face composed and resembling, in the moonlight, 
beneath the snowy turban, that of some young 
prophet, he stood, one protective hand resting upon 
my shoulder, and confronted my assailant. Hig^ 



THE LADY OP THE LATTICE 71 

eyes were aglow with the eerie light of fanaticism. 

**It is written that the wrath of fools is the joy 
of Iblees," * he declared. 

Their glances met in conflict, the eagle eyes of 
my aged but formidable enemy glaring insanely 
into the fine, dark eyes of Abu Tabah. The Arab 
was by no means quelled; yet presently his glance 
fell before the hypnotic stare of the mysterious 
imam. 

**The Prophet (may God be kind to him) spared 
not the despoiler!" he said heavily. *'With these, 
my two hands'* — he extended the twitching, 
sinewy members before Abu Tabah — *'will I choke 
the life from the throat of the dog who wronged 
me." 

Abu Tabah raised his hand sternly 

**This matter has been entrusted to me/' he 
said, staring down the enraged old man. '*If you 
would have me abandon it, say so; if you would 
have me pursue it, be silent. ' ' 

For five seconds the other sustained the strange 
gaze of those big, mysterious eyes, then folded his 
arms upon his breast, audibly gnashing his large 
and strong-looking teeth and averting his head from 
my direction in order that spleen might not con- 
sume him. Abu Tabah turned and confronted 
me. 

** Explain the cause of your presence here,*' he 
demanded, continuing to speak in Arabic, **and 
mifold to me the whole truth respecting your case.'* 

• Satar. 



n TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

**My friend/' I replied, steadily regarding him, 
**I am eternally your debtor; but I decline to 
utter one word for explanation until these fellows 
unhand me and until I am offered some suitable 
excuse for the outrageous attack upon my person." 

Abu Tabah performed his curiously Gallic shrug 
of the shoulders — and pointed, with his ebony cane, 
to my pinioned arms. In a trice the Nubians fell 
back, and I was free. The infuriated old man 
directed upon me a glance that was bloodily 
ferocious, but — ' 

*'0 persons of little piety," I said, *^is it thus 
that a true Moslem rewards the generous impulse 
and the meritorious deed? To-night a damsel in 
distress, flying from a brutal captor, solicited my 
aid. I was treacherously assaulted ere I could 
escort her to a place of safety, and all but murdered 
by the man who would appear to be that damsel's 
natural protector. Alas, I fear to contemplate 
what may have befallen her as a result of such vile 
and foolish conduct." 

Abu Tabah slightly inclined his body resting 
his slim, ivory hands upon his cane; his face 
remained perfectly tranquil as he listened to this 
correct, though misleading statement ; but — 

'*Ah!" cried the old man of the scimitar, adopt- 
ing an unpleasant, crouching attitude, ** perjured 
liar that thou art! Did I not see with mine own 
eyes how she embraced thee? 0, son of a mange, 
that I should have lived to have witnessed so 
obscene a spectacle. Not content with despoiling 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 73 

me of this jewel of my harem, thou dost parade 
her abandomnent and my shame in the publix) 
highways of Cairo ! ..." 

In vain Abu Tabah strove to check this tirade. 
Step by step the Sheikh approached closer ; syllable 
by syllable his voice rose higher. 

*'What!'' he shrieked, '4s it for this that I have 
offered five thousand English pounds to whomso- 
ever shall restore her to me! Faugh! I spit upon 
her memory! — and though I pursue thee to the 
Mountains of the Moon, across the Bridge Es- 
Sirat, and through the valley of Gahennam, lo! 
my hour will come to slay thee, noisome offal!" 

He ceased from lack of breath, and stood quiver- 
ing before me. But at last I had grasped the clue 
to this imbroglio into which fate had thrust me. 

**0 misguided man," I replied, ** grief hath up- 
set thine intelligence. Again I tell thee that I 
sought to deliver the damsel from her persecutor, 
and, perceiving an ambush, she clung to me as her 
only protector. Thou are demented. Let another 
earn the paltry reward ; I will have none of it. ' ' 

I turned to Abu Tabah, addressing him in English. 

'* Relieve me of the society of this infatuated old 
ruffian," I said, **and accompany me to some place 
where I can quietly explain what I know of the 
matter." 

** Assuredly I will accompany you to such a 
spot," he answered suavely; **for whilst, knowing 
your character, I do not believe you to be the 
abductor of the damsel Mizmuna, a warrant to 



74 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

search yonr house was issued an hour ago, on a 
fiiarge of hashish smuggling I ' ' 

IT 

There are certain shocks that numb the brain. 
This was one of them. My recollection of the period 
immediately following those words of Abu Tabah 
is hazy and indistinct. My narrow escape from 
decapitation at the hands of the ferocious Arab 
assassin and the tangled love-affairs of that aged 
Othello became insignificant memories. (I seem 
to recollect that we left him in tears.) 

My next clear-cut memory is that of walking 
beside the mysterious imam along the Darb el- 
Ahmar and of stopping before the closed door of 
my newly acquired premises I 

The street was quite deserted again. Those 
muffled Nubians who seemed to constitute a body- 
guard for my inscrutable companion had dis- 
appeared in company with the bereaved Sheikh. 

**This is your house f said Abu Tabah sweetly. 

My habit of thinking before I speak or act 
asserted itself automatically. 

**I recently leased it on another's behalf," I 
replied. 

**In that event,'' continued the imam, ** unless 
the information lodged with me to-night prove to 
be inaccurate, that other must speedily proclaim 
himself. ' ' 

He tested the cumbersome lock, and, as I knew 
would be the case, since Mizmuna had recently 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 75 

entered, found it to be unfastened, opened the door 
and stepped in. 

**Have you a pocket lamp?*' he asked. 

I pressed the button of my electric torch and 
directed its rays fully upon the stack of boxes. It 
was the great sage, Apollonius of Tyana, who said 
** loquacity has many pitfalls, but silence none*'; 
therefore I silently watched Abu Tabah consulting 
the label on the topmost chest. Presently — 

** Ahmed Ben Tawwab,'' he read aloud; "is that 
the name of the friend on whose behalf you secured 
a lease of this house?" 

**It is,'* I answered. 

"If you will rest the light upon this box and 
assist me to open one of the others, I shall be 
obliged to you,'' said Abu Tabah. 

Knowing, as I did, that this strange man was in 
some way connected with the native police and with 
the guardianship of Egyptian morals, I recognized 
refusal to be impolitic if not impossible. But, as 
we set to work to raise the lid of the chest, my mind 
was more feverishly busy than my fingers. 

Ere long our task was successful, and the con- 
tents of the chest lay exposed. These were: two 
hundred Osiris statuettes, twelve one-pound tins of 
mummy heads . . . and fifty packets of hashish. 

Silence was no effort to me now; I was dumb- 
founded. The musical voice of my companion broke 
in upon my painful reverie. 

"The information upon which I now am acting,'' 
he said, "reached me to-night in the form of a 



76 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

letter, bearing no address and no signature. The 
suppression of this vile hashish traffic is so near to 
my heart that I immediately secured the necessary 
powers to search the premises named, and was on 
my way hither when I observed you (although I 
did not at once recognize you) in the act of escaping 
from a group of my servants who had been detailed, 
some weeks ago, to trace a missing damsel known 
to be in Cairo. Concerning your share in that affair 
I await a full statement from your own lips; con- 
cerning your share in this I can only say that 
unless Ahmed Ben Tawwab comes forward by to- 
morrow and admits his guilt, I must apply to the 
British agent for a formal inquiry. Is there any- 
thing that you would wish to say, or any action you 
desire that I should teikeV* 

I turned to him in the dim light. Habitually I 
am undemonstrative, especially with natives. But 
there was a nobility and an implacable sense of 
justice about this singular religieux which conquered 
me completely. 

^*Abu Tabah,'' I said, *'I thank you for your 
friendship. I have committed a grave folly; but 
I am neither an abductor nor a hashish dealer. 
This is the work of an unknown enemy, and already 
I have a theory respecting his identity.'* 

*'Can I aid you — or do you prefer that I leave 
you to pursue this clue in your own way?" he 
asked tactfully. 

**I prefer to work alone.'* 

"The affair is truly mysterious,'* he admitted 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 77 

'^and I purpose to spend the night in meditation 
respecting it. After the hour of morning prayer, 
therefore, I will visit you. LUtdJc sa^tda, Kernaby 
Pasha.'' 

**LUtak sa'ida, Abu Tabah/' I said, as he stepped 
out of the door. 

Slowly and stately the imam passed down the 
street; and the ginnee of solitude reclaimed that 
deserted spot. A night watchman, nehbut on 
shoulder, passed along the distant Sukkariya. A 
dog howled. 

I re-entered the doorway conscious of a sudden 
mental excitement; for an explanation of the 
anonymous letter had just presented itself to my 
mind. The owner of the neighboring house must 
have detected my rendezvous with his lady-love, 
have investigated the contents of the cases, and 
denounced me from motives of revenge! That the 
villainous Joseph Malaglou had been in the habit 
of smuggling hashish into Egypt in my cases of 
** cutlery" was evident enough and accounted for 
his reluctance to fall in with the new arrangement; 
but my bemused brain utterly failed to grapple 
with the problem of why, knowing their damning 
"Contents, he had permitted these ten cases to be 
delivered at my address. Moreover, how my worthy 
neighbor — who had evidently abducted Mizmuna 
from the old man of the scimitar — had learned my 
real name was another mystery which I found no 
leisure to examine. For I had but just set foot 
again within the ill-omened place when there came 



78 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

a patter of swift, light footsteps — and out from 
behind the fatal stack of boxes ran Mizmuna, 
and threw herself into my arms ! 

**0h, my friend, my protector!'* she cried dis- 
tractedly, **what shall I do? Yussuf has dis- 
covered onr plot! Fatimah, that mother of 
calamities, has betrayed me, and I dare not 
return! I am an outcast; for although I was 
stolen from the Sheikh Ismail without my consent, 
how can I hope for his forgiveness ? ' ' 

Such a flood of sorrows and confidences over- 
whelmed me, and I placed a silent but deathless 
curse upon the lapis armlet which had brought me 
to this pass. Mizmuna sobbed upon my shoulder. 

*^ Yussuf has planned your ruin as well as mine,'* 
she said brokenly. **For it was he who denounced 
you to the Magician.*' (As ^'ihe Magician" Abu 
Tabah was known and feared throughout Lowei 
Egypt.) *'0h that I might return to the house 
of Ismail where I lived in luxury in a marble 
pavilion, guarded by Hanna and a hundred negroes, 
where I possessed the robes of a princess and was 
laden with costly jewels !" 

So very human and natural an ambition met 
with my hearty approval, and, upon consideration 
of the word-picture of his domestic state, the old 
man of the scimitar rose immensely in my esteem. 
How my malevolent neighbor had succeeded in 
abducting Mizmuna from such a fortress I failed to 
imagine. But I began to see my way more clearly 
and hope was reborn in my bosom. 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 79 

**Fear nothing, child," I said to the weeping girl. 
**You shall return to your marble pavilion and to 
the care of that worthy, if somewhat hasty man, 
from whose arms you were torn. And now inform 
me — where is Yussuf ?" 

Mizmuna raised her face and looked up at me, 
her long lashes wet with tears, but the slow, childish 
smile of the Eastern woman already curving her red 
lips. 

**He is in his own room destroying papers," she 
said. 

**Who told you this T" 

**Ali, the bowwah, who is faithful to me — and 
who hates Fatimah." 

'*Is the trap rebolted?" 

**I know not." 

** Remain here until I return," I said, seating 
her upon one of the boxes. ** Where are my keyst" 

**I hid them upon the ledge of the window, beside 
the door yonder." 

Taking them from this simple *' hiding-place," I 
locked the door to give Mizmuna courage, and, tak- 
ing the lamp with me, began to mount the stairs, 
first assuring myself of the presence in my pocket 
of my Colt automatic, which Abu Tabah had re- 
stored to me. 

The ray of my lamp shining out ahead, I came to 
the crazy ladder giving access to the trap. I climbed 
up, raising the trap, and gazed upon the jeweled 
dome of midnight Egypt. Dire necessity spurred 
me, and I walked across to the adjoining trap, care- 



80 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

fally inserted two fingers in the iron ring and pulled. 

It was not fastened below! Inch by inch I 
raised it, and, finding the room beneath it to be 
in darkness, opened the trap fully and descended 
the ladder. 

I flashed the light quickly about the place; then 
stood staring at what it revealed. My heart began 
to beat rapidly, for in that dirty attic I had found 
salvation . . . and a further clue to the mystery 
of all my misfortunes. 

It was a hashish warehouse ! 

Taking off my shoes, I thrust one into either 
pocket of my Jacket, and, perceiving that the house 
was constructed on a plan identical with that adjoin- 
ing it, I crept downstairs to the apartment of the 
mushrabiyeh window. A heavy curtain was draped 
in the doorway, but I could see that the room within 
was illuminated. 

I drew the curtains slowly aside and peeped in. 
I saw an apartment that had evidently been fur- 
nished very luxuriantly, but which now was partially 
dismantled. In the recess formed by the mndow 
a low table was placed, bearing a shaded lamp. The 
table was littered with papers, account books and 
ledgers; and, seated thereat, his back towards the 
door, was a man who figured feverishly. I stepped 
into the room. 

'*Good evening, Yussuf of Rosetta,'* I said; *'you 
do well to set your affairs in order.'* 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 81 



Swiftly as though a serpent had touched him, the 
man in the recess leaped to his feet and twisted 
ahout to confront me. 

I found myself looking into a hideous, swarthy 
face — ^blanched now to the lips, so that the cunning 
black eyes glared out as from a mask — into the 
hideous swarthy face of Joseph Malaglou! 

The store of hashish in the upper room had some- 
what prepared me for this discovery; yet, momen- 
tarily, the consummate villainy of the Greek had me 
bereft of speech. As I stood there glaring at him, he 
began furtively to grope with one hand along the 
edge of the diwan behind him. Then, suddenly, he 
became aware of the pistol which I carried — and 
abandoned the quest of whatever weapon he had 
sought, swallowing audibly. 

''So, my good Malaglou," I said, "you sought to 
make me responsible for your sins, my friend! I 
perceive now how the Fates have played with me. 
My very first conversation with your charming 
protegee " 

He bit savagely at his black moustache, advanced 
upon me ; then, his gaze set upon the Colt, he stood 
still again. 

** . . . was reported to you by the traitorous 
Fatimah," I continued evenly; ''and, when, on th© 
morrow, I advised you of my new address, the iden- 
tity of the hitherto unknown Romeo who had raise9 
his eyes to your Juliet became apparent. You 



82 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

doubtless liad designed to nnpacii mv boxes for me 
as you have been in the habit of doing; but green- 
eyed jealousy suggested how, by the sacrifice of 
only one consignment of JiasJiish, you might wreak 
my ruin. I disapprove of your morals, Malaglou. 
My own code may be peculiar, but it does not em- 
brace hashish dealing; therefore, Malaglou, you are 
about to take a sheet of note-paper — ^bearing your 
office heading — and write from my dictation. . . . " 

**And suppose I refuse? You dare not shoot 
me!" 

**You little know my true character, Malaglou. 
But I should not shoot you, as you say; I should 
introduce you to a gentleman who is very anxious 
to make your acquaintance — the venerable Sheikh 
Ismail." 

The effect of this remark greatly exceeded my 
most sanguine expectations. I think I have never 
seen a man so pitiably frightened. 

**The Sheikh . . . Ismail!" gasped Joseph 
Malaglou. ^ ' He is in Cairo ? ' ' 

'*He has generously offered me f^vQ thousand 
pounds for your name and address." 

**Ah, my God!" whispered Malaglou. '^Kemaby, 
you will not betray me to that fiend f You are an 
Englishman and you will not soil your hands with 
such a deed ! ' ' 

To my dismay — for it was a disgusting sight — 
Malaglou fell trembling upon his Imees before me. 
The threat of shooting had had no such effect as 
the mere name of the Sheikh Ismail. My respeof 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 83 

for that really remarkable old mffian rose by leaps 
and bounds. 

**Get up,*' I said harshly, **and, if yon can, 
write." 

He obeyed me; the man was almost hysterical 
And, very shakily, this is what he wrote : 

**I, Joseph Malaglou, also known as Ahmed 
Ben Tawwab, confess that I am a dealer in hashish 
and spurious antiques, which I have been in the 
habit of storing at my warehouse in Cairo, and 
also in my private residence in the Darb el Ahmar. 
Finding it desirable to enlarge the facilities of the 
latter, I induced the Hon. Neville Kernaby, who 
is ignorant of my real business, to lease for me a 
house which adjoins my own, as I did not desire it 
to be known that I was the lessee. Subsequently, 
learning that the suspicions of the authorities had 
been aroused, I anonymously denounced Kernaby, 
thus hoping to avert suspicion from myself and 
cause his arrest as the consignee of the cases which 
had been delivered at the new premises. ' ' 

**Very good,'* I said, when this precious document 
bad been completed. ** You understand that you will 
now accompany me to the central police station 
in the Place Bab el-Khalk and sign this confession 
in the presence of suitable witnesses'? You will 
doubtless be detained; therefore in the interests of 
your safety, we must arrange that Mizmuna be 
hidden securely until the case is settled. Oh I set 
vour evil mind at rest! I shall not betray you to 



84 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

the Sheikh; unless — '' I looked him squarely in the 
eyes — *^any whisper of my name appears in this 
matter!'' 

**But where is shef he said hoarsely. 

**She is hiding in the adjoining house.'' 

* * I have a small place at Shubra where I can con- 
ceal her. ' ' 

**Very well. I will bring her here and permit 
you to make suitable arrangements, but let them 
be complete; for if Ismail should find the girl and 
thus discover your identity, nothing could save you 
— and you will be unable to leave Cairo (I shall see 
to that) until the case is settled." 

VI 

It was on the following evening, as I sat smoking 
upon the terrace of the hotel and reflecting upon 
the execrably bad luck which pursued me, that I 
observed Abu Tabah mounting the carpeted steps 
with slow and stately carriage. He saluted me 
gravely and accepted the seat which I offered him. 

My plan had run smoothly; Malaglou had given 
himself up to the authorities, but had been released 
upon payment of a substantial bail. Mizmuna was 
concealed at Shubra, and I was flogging my brain 
in a vain endeavor to conjure up a plan whereby, 
without betraying the villainous Greek and thus 
causing him to betray me, I might secure the 
Sheikh's reward — or, at least, the lapis armlet. 

**Alas," said Abu Tabah, '^that the wicked should 
prosper." 



THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 85 

**To whose prosperity,*' I inquired, **do yon more 
especially refer?" 

He regarded me with his fine melancholy eyes. 

**You have an English adage,'' he continued, 
** which sa>s, 'set a thief to catch a thief.' " 

*' Quite so. But might I inquire what bearing this 
crystallized wisdom has upon our present conversa- 
tion?" 

**The man, Joseph Malaglou," he replied, 'beam- 
ing of the hue-and-cry after a certain missing 
damsel " 

I remember I was about to light a cigar as he 
uttered those words, but a dawning perception of 
the iniquitous truth crept poisonously into my mind, 
and I threw both ciccar and matches over the rail 
into the Shara Kamel and clutched fiercely at the 
little table between us. 

**And of the reward offered for her recovery," 
pursued the imam, ** denounced to us, one Yussuf 
of Rosetta, a man owning a small house at Shubra. 
Yussuf had fled, and the only occupant of the place 
was the missing damsel Mizmuna. Alas that fortune 
should so favor the sinful. The abductor, the de- 
spoiler, escapes retribution; and the traitor, the 
informer, the dealer in hashish is rewarded." 

The Turk has signally failed to rule Egypt; but 
there are certain Ottoman institutions which are 
not without claims, as I realized at that moment in 
regard to Joseph Malaglou: I was thinking, par- 
ticularly, of the bow-string. 

** Already," said Abu Tabah, with his sweet but 



86 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

melancholy smile, **tlie heart of the Sheikh Ismail 
inclined toward the damsel, for whom his soul 
yearned; and has not it been written that he who 
heals the breach betwixt man and wife shall him- 
self be blessed! Behold the reward of the peace- 
maker—which I design as a gift to mv sister.'' 

I was nnable to speak, but I became aware of a 
bitter taste upon my palate as, from beneath his 
robe, ih^. prr^M'ng imam took out the armlet of gold 
and lapis-lazuli I 



I 



IV 

OMAR OF ISPAHAN 



««X HEAB that the Harem Suit is occupied," 
said Sir Bertram CoUis, bustling up to me as 
I sat smoking in the gardens of a certain Cairo 
hotel, which I shall not name because of the matters 
that befell there. ** Daphne is full of curiosity re- 
specting the romantic occupant." 

** Don't let Lady CoUis be too sure/' put in Chun- 
dermeyer, **that there is anything romantic about 
the occupant.** 

''Your definition of romance, Chundermeyer," I 
interrupted, '* would probably be 'a diamond the size 
of a Spanish onion. ' ' * 

Chundermeyer smiled, but it was a smile in which 
his dark eyes, twinkling through the pebbles of 
horn-rimmed spectacles, played no part. I must 
confess that the society of this unctuous partner 
in the well-known Madras firm of Isaacs and Chun- 
dermeyer palled somewhat at times. He, on the 
other hand, was eternally dropping into a chair 
beside me, and proffering huge and costly cigars 
from a huge and costly case. This sort of parvenu 
persecution is one of the penalties of being recog- 
nized by Debrett. 

"As a matter of fact," I continued, "the occupant 

87 



88 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

of the Harem Suite is no less romantic a personage 
than the daughter of the Mudir (Governor) of the 
Fayum/' 

**Keally!^* said Chundermeyer, with that sudden 
interest which mention of a title always aroused in 
him. ** Surely it is most unusual for so highly 
placed a Moslem lady to reside at an hotel!" 

**Most unusual,'* I replied. **0f course such a 
thing would be inconceivable in India; but the 
management of this establishment, who cater almost 
exclusively to tourists, find, I am told, that a * harem 
suite' is quite a good advertisement. The reason 
of the presence of this lady in the hotel is a diplo- 
Imatic one. She is visiting Cairo in order to witness 
the procession of Ashura, peculiarly sacred to 
Egyptian women, and it appears that, having no 
blood relations here, she could not accept the hos- 
pitality of any one of the big families without 
alienating the others." 

*^By Jove!" said Sir Bertram, **I must tell 
Daphne this yarn. She'll be delighted! Come along, 
Kemaby; if we're to have tea at Mena House, it is 
high time we were off. ' ' 

I left Chundermeyer to his opulent cigar without 
regret. That he was an astute man of affairs and 
an expert lapidary I did not doubt, for he had offered 
to buy my Hatshepsu scarab ring at a price exactly 
ten per cent below its trade value ; but to my mind 
there is something almost as unnatural about a 
Hindu-Hebrew as about a Graeco- Welshman or a 
griffin. 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 89 

Of course, Daphne Collis was not ready; and, Sir 
Bertram going up to their apartments to induce her 
to hurry, I strolled out again into the gardens for 
a quiet cigarette and a cocktail. As I approached 
a suitable seat in a sort of charming little arbor 
festooned with purple blossom, a man who had been 
waiting there rose to greet me. 

With a certain quickening of the pulse, I recog- 
nized Abu Tabah, arrayed, as was his custom, in 
black, only releived by a small snowy turban, which 
served to enhance the ascetic beauty of his face and 
the mystery of the wonderful, liquid eyes. 

He inclined his head in that gesture of gentle 
dignity which I knew ; and : 

*'I have been awaiting an opportunity of speech 
with you, Kernaby Pasha,'* he said, in his flawless, 
musical English, **upon a matter in which I hope 
you will consent to aid me." 

Since this mysterious man, variously known as 
*'the imam'* and **the Magician,** but whom I knew 
to be some kind of secret agent of the Egyptian 
Government, had recently saved me from assassina- 
tion, to decline to aid him was out of the question. 
"We seated ourselves in the arbor. 

**I should welcome an opportunity of serving you, 
my friend,*' I assured him, ** since your services to 
me can never be repaid." 

His lips moved slightly in the curiously tender 
smile which a poor physiognomist might have mis- 
taken for evidence of effeminacy, bending towards 
me with a cautious glance about. 



90 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

*'Yon are staying at this hotel throughout th6 
Christmas festivities?'* he asked. 

**Yes; I have temporarily deserted Shepheard'a 
in order to accept the hospitality of Sir Bertram 
CoUis, a very old friend. I shall probably return 
on the Tuesday following Christmas Day.'' 

** There is to be a carnival and masquerade ball 
here to-morrow. You shall be present ! ' ' 

**I hope so," I replied in surprise. **To what 
does all this tend?" 

Abu Tabah bent yet closer. 

**Many of your friends and acquaintances possess 
valuable jewels?" 

''They do." 

' * Then warn them — individually, in order to occa- 
sion no general alarm — to guard these with the 
utmost care." 

My surprise increased. ''You alarm me," I said. 
' ' Are there rogues in our midst ? ' ' 

"No," answered the imam, fixing his melancholy 
gaze upon my face; "so far as my knowledge bears 
me, there is but one, yet that one is worse than a 
host of others." 

"Do you mean that he is here — in the hotel!" 

Abu Tabah shrugged his slim shoulders. 

"If I knew his exact whereabouts," he replied, 
"there would be no occasion to fear him. All that 
I know is that he is in Cairo ; and since many richly 
attired women of Europe and America will be here 
to-morrow night, of a surety Omar Ali Khan will 
be here also ! ' ' 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 91 

I shook my head in perplexity. 

'^Oinar Ali Khan?'' ^I began. 

<'Ah,'' continued Abu Tabah, **to you that name 
conveys nothing, but to me it signifies Omar of 
Ispahan, Hhe Father of Thieves.' Do you remem- 
ber," fixing his strange eyes hypnotically upon me, 
*'the theft of the sacred hurlco of Nefisehr' 

''Quite well,*' I replied hastily; since the incident 
represented an unpleasant memory. 

''It was Omar of Ispahan who stole it from the 
shrine. It was Omar of Ispahan who stole the blue 
diamond of the Rajah of Bagore from the treasure- 
room at JuUapore, and Omar of Ispahan" — ^lower- 
ing his voice almost to a whisper — ''who stole the 
Holy Carpet ere it reached Mecca!" 

"What!" I cried. "When did that happen? I 
never heard of such an episode!" 

Abu Tabah raised his long, slim hand wamingly. 

"Be cautious!" he whispered; "the flowers of the 
garden, the palms in the grove, the very sands of 
the desert have ears! The lightest word spoken in 
the harem of the Khedive, or breathed from a 
minaret of the Citadel, is heard by Omar of Ispahan! 
The holy covering for the Kaaba was restored, on 
payment of a ruinous ransom by the Sherif of Mecca, 
and none save the few ever knew of its loss." 

For a time I was silent ; words failed me ; for the 
veil of the Kaaba, miscalled "the Carpet," is about 
the size of a bowling-green ; then — 

"In what manner does this affair concern yoii, 
Abu Tabah f" I asked. 



92 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

''In tins way: the daughter of the Mndir el- 
Fayum is here, in order that she may be present 
on the Night of Ashiira in the Muski. For a Moslem 
lady to stay in such a place as this" — ^there was 
a faint note of contempt in the speaker's voice — 
*'is without precedent, but the circumstances are 
peculiar. The khan near the Mosque of Hosein is 
full, and it is not seemly that the Mudir's daughter 
should live at any lesser establishment. Therefore, 
as she brings her two servants, it has been possible 
for her to remain here. But" — his voice sank 
again — '* her ornaments are famed throughout 
Islam." 

I nodded comprehendingly. 

*'To me," Abu Tabah whispered, '*has been en- 
trusted the task of guarding them; to you, I entrust 
that of guarding the possessions cf the other 
guests ! ' ' 
I started. 

''But, my friend," I said, ''this is a dreadful 
responsibility which you impose upon me." 

"Other precautions are being taken," he replied 
calmly; "but you, observing great circumspection, 
can speak to the guests, and, being forewarned of 
his presence, can even watch for the coming of 
Omar of Ispahan.'^ 



The effect of my news upon Lady CoUis was truly 
dramatic. 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 93 

**0h," she cried, ''my rope of pearls. Mr. Chnn- 
dermeyer only told me last week that it was worth 
at least two hundred pound more than I gave for 
it." 

Mr. Chundermeyer had made himself popular with 
many of the ladies in the hotel by similar diplomatic 
means, but I think that if he had been compelled to 
purchase at his own flattering valuations Messrs. 
Isaacs and Chundermeyer would have been ruined. 

*'You need not wear it, my dear," said her hus- 
band tactlessly. 

** Don't be so ridiculous!" she retorted. ''You 
know I have brought my Queen of Sheba costume 
for to-morrow night." 

That, of course, settled the matter, so that beyond 
Inaking one pretty woman extremely nervous, my 
campaign against the dreaded Omar of Ispahan had 
opened — ^blankly. Later in the day T circulated my 
warning right and left, and everywhere sowed con- 
sternation without reaping any appreciable result. 

"One naturally expects thieves on these oc- 
casions," said a little Chicago millionairess, "and if 
I only wore my diamonds when no rogues were about, 
I might as well have none. There are crooks iH 
America I'd back against your Persian thief any 
day." 

On the whole, I think, the best audience for my 
dramatic recitation was provided by Mr. Chunder- 
meyer, whom I found in the American bar, just 
before the dinner hour. His yellow skin perceptibly 
blanched at my first mention of Omar All Khan, 



94 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

and one hand clutched at a bulging breast pockej 
of the dinner-jacket he wore. 

**Good heavens, Mr. Kernaby/' he said, **you 
alarm me — you alarm me, sir ! * ' 

'*The reputation of Omar is not unknown to 
youf 

**By no means unknown to me," he responded 
in the thick, unctuous voice which betrayed the 
Semitic strain in his pedigree. **It was this man 
who stole the pair of blue diamonds from the Rajah 
of Bagore.'' 

'*So I am told.'' 

**But have you been told that it was my firm 
who bought those diamonds for the Rajah?'* 

**No; that is news to me." 

*'It was my firm, Mr. Kernaby, who negotiated 
the sale of the blue diamonds to the Rajah; there- 
fore the particulars of their loss, under most extra- 
ordinary circumstances, are well known to me. You 
have made me very nervous. Who is your in- 
formant?" 

**A member of the native police with whom I am 
acquainted. ' ' 

Mr. Chundermeyer shook his head lugubriously. 

'*I am conveying a parcel of rough stones to 
Amsterdam," he confessed, glancing warily about 
him over the rims of his spectacles, ^*and I feel 
very much disposed to ask for more reliable protec- 
tion than is offered by your Egyptian friend." 

**Why not lodge the stones in a bank, or in th» 
manager's safe?" 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN X 

He shook his head again, and proffered an eno^ 
mons cigar. 

*<I distrust all safes but my own," he replied. 
**I prefer to carry such valuables upon my person, 
foolish though the plan may seem to you. But do 
you observe that squarely built, military looking 
person standing at the bar, in conversation with 
M. Balabas, the manager!'' 

''Yes; an officer, I should judge." 

''Precisely; a police officer. That is Chief In* 
■pector Carlisle of New Scotland Yard." 

"But he is a guest here." 

"Certainly. The management sustained a severe 
loss last Christmas during the progress of a ball at 
which all Cairo was present, and as the inspector 
chanced to be on his way home from India, where 
official business had taken him, M. Balabas induced 
him to break his journey and remain until after the 
carnival." 

"Wait a moment," I said; "I will bring him 
over, ' ' 

Crossing to the bar, I greeted Balabas, with whom 
I was acquainted, and — 

"Mr. Chundermeyer and I have been discussing 
the notorious Omar of Ispahan, who is said to be 
in Cairo," I remarked. 

Inspector Carlisle, being introduced, smiled 
broadly. 

"Mr. Balabas is very nervous about this Omar 
man," he replied, with a slight Scottish accent: 
**but, considering that everybody has been warned, 



96 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

I don't see myself that lie can do mucli damage.'' 

** Perhaps you would be good enough to reassure 
Mr. Chundermeyer/ ' I suggested, **who is carrying 
valuables." 

Chief Inspector Carlisle walked over to the isible 
at which Chundermeyer was seated. 

*'I have met your partner, sir," he said, '*and I 
gathered that you were on your way to Amsterdam 
with a parcel of rough stones; in fact, I supposed 
that you had arrived there by now. ' ' 

*'I am fond of Cairo during the Christmas sea- 
son," explanied the other, **and I broke my journey. 
But now I sincerely wish I were elsewhere." 

"Oh, I shouldn't worry!" said the detective 
cheerily. "There are enough of us on the look- 
out." 

But Mr. Chundermeyer remained palpably uneasy. 



m 



The gardens of the hotel on the following night 
presented a fairy-like spectacle. Lights concealed 
among the flower-beds, the bloom-covered arbors, 
and the feathery leafage of the acacias, su-ffused a 
sort of weird glow, suggesting the presence of a 
million fire-flies. Up beneath the crowns of the lofty 
palms little colored electric lamps were set, produc- 
ing an illusion of supernatural fruit, whilst the foun- 
tain had been magically converted into a cascade 
of fire. 

In the ball-room, where the orchestra played, and 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 97 

a hundred mosque lamps bathed the apartment in 
soft illumination, a cosmopolitan throng danced 
around a giant Christmas tree, their costumes a 
clash of color to have filled a theatrical producer 
with horror, outraging history and linking the ages 
in startling fashion. Thus, St. Antony of the 
Thebaid danced with Salome, the luresome daughter 
of Herodias; Nero's arm was about the waist of 
Good Queen Bess; Charles 11 cantered through a 
two-step with a red-haired Vestal Virgin; and the 
Queen of Sheba (Daphne Collis) had no less appro- 
priate a partner than Sherlock Holmes. 

Doubtless it was all very amusing, but, personally, 
I stand by my commonplace dress-suit, having, per- 
haps, rather a ridiculous sense of dignity. Inspector 
Carlisle also was soberly arrayed, and we had sev- 
eral chats during the evening ; he struck me as being 
a man of considerable culture and great shrewdness. 

For Abu Tabah I looked in vain. Following our 
conservation on the previous afternoon, he had 
vanished like a figment of a dream. I several times 
saw Chundermeyer, who had elected to disguise 
himself as Al-Mokanna, the Veiled Prophet of 
Khorassan. He seemed to be an enthusiastic dancer, 
and there was no lack of partners. 

But of these mandarins, pierrots, Dutch girls, 
monks, and court ladies I speedily tired, and sought 
refuge in the gardens, whose enchanted aspect was 
completed by that wondrous inverted bowl, jewel- 
studded, which is the nightly glory of Egypt. In 
the floral, dim-lighted arbors many romantic couples 



98 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

shrank from the peeping moon; but quiet and a 
hushful sense of peace ruled there beneath the stars 
more in harmony with my mood. 

One corner of the gardens, in particular, seemed 
to be quite deserted, and it was the most picturesque 
spot of all. For here a graceful palm up stood before 
an outjutting mushrabiyeJi window, dimly lighted, 
over which trailed a wealth of bougainvillia blossom, 
whilst beneath it lay a floral carpet, sharply bisected 
by the shadow of the palm trunk. It was like some 
gorgeous illustration to a poem by Hafiz, only lack- 
ing the figure at the window. 

And as I stood, enchanted, before the picture, 
the central panels of the window were thrown open, 
and, as if conjured up by my imagination, a woman 
appeared, looking out into the gardens — an Oriental 
woman, robed in shimmering, moon-kissed white, 
and wearing a white yashmah. Her arms and fingers 
were laden with glittering jewels. 

I almost held my breath, drawing back into the 
sheltering shadow, for I had not hitherto suspected 
myself of being a sorcerer. For perhaps a minute, 
or less, she stood looking out, then the window 
closed, and the white phantom disappeared. I re- 
covered myself, recognizing that T stood before the 
isolated wing of the hotel known as the Harem 
Suite, and that Fate had granted me a glimpse of 
the daughter of the Mudir of the Fayum. 

Recollecting, in the nick of time, an engagement 
to dance with Lady Collis, I hurried back to the 
ball-room. On its very threshold I encountered 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 99 

Chnndermeyer. I could see his spectacles glitter- 
ing through the veil of his ridiculous costume, and 
even before he spoke I detected about him an aura 
of tragedy. 

''Mr. Kemaby," he gasped, ''for Heaven's sake 
help me to find Inspector Carlisle I I have been 
robbed!'' 

"What?" 

"My diamonds!" 

"You don't mean " 

"Find the inspector, and come to my rooms. I 
am nearly mad!" 

Daphne Collis, who had seen me enter, joined 
us at this moment, and, overhearing the latter part 
of Chnndermeyer 's speech: 

"Oh, whatever is the matter?" she whispered 

As for Chnndermeyer the effect upon him of her 
sudden appearance was positively magical. He 
stared through his veil as though her charming 
figure had been that of some hideous phantom. Then 
slowly, as if he dreaded to find her intangible, he 
extended one hand and touched her rope of pearls. 

"Ah, heavens!" he gasped. "I am really going 
!mad, or is there a magician amongst us?" 

Daphne Collis 's blue eyes opened very widely, and 
the color slowly faded from her cheeks. 

"Mr. Chundermeyer, " she began. But — 

"Let us go into this little recess, where there is 
a good light," mumbled Chundermeyer shakily, "and 
I will make sure. ' ' 

The three of us entered the palm-screened alcove^ 



100 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Chundermeyer leading. He stood immediately tuider 
a lamp suspended by brass chains from the roof. 

** Permit me to examine your pearls for one mo- 
ment/' he said. 

Her hands trembling, Daphne Collis took off the 
costly ornament and placed it in the hands of the 
greatly perturbed expert. Chundermeyer ran the 
pearls through his fingers, then lifted the largest 
of the set towards the light and scrutinized it closely. 
Suddenly he dropped his arms, and extended the 
necklace upon one open palm. 

^^Look for yourself, '' he said slowly. **It does 
not require the eyes of an expert." 

Daphne Collis snatched the pearls and stared at 
Ihem dazedly. Her pretty face was now quite 
colorless. 

**This is not my rope of pearls,'' she said, in a 
monotonous voice; ^4t is a very poor imitation 1" 

Ere I could frame any kind of speech — 

**Look at this," groaned Chundermeyer, *'as you 
talk of a poor imitation!" 

He was holding out a leather-covered box, plush> 
lined, and bearing within the words, ** Isaacs and 
Chundermeyer, Madras." Nestling grotesquely 
amid the blue velvet were six small pieces of coal ! 

Chundermeyer sank upon the cushions of thi> 
settee, tossing the casket upon a little coffee table. 

* * I am afraid I feel unwell, ' ' he said feebly. * * Mr. 
Kernaby, I wonder if you would be so kind as to 
find Inspector Carlisle, and ask a waiter to bring 
me some cognac." 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 101 

*'0h, what shall I do, what shall I doT' whispered 
poor Daphne Collis. 

** Just remain here/' I said soothingly, **with Mr. 
Chundermeyer." And I induced her to sit in a big 
cane rest-chair. **I will return in a moment with 
Bertram and the inspector. ' ' 

Desiring to avoid a panic, I walked quietly into 
the ball-room and took stock of the dancers, for a 
waltz was in progress. The inspectoral could not 
see, but Sir Bertram I observed at the further end 
of the floor, dancing with Mrs. Van Heysten, the 
Chicago lady whom I had warned to keep a close 
watch upon her diamonds. 

I managed to attract Collis 's attention, and the 
pair, quitting the floor, joined me where I stood. 
A few words sufliced in which to inform them of 
the catastrophe, and, pointing out the alcove wherein 
I had left Chundermeyer and Lady Collis, I set off 
in search of Inspector Carlisle. 

Ten minutes later, having visited every likely spot, 
I came to the conclusion that he was not in the 
hotel, and with M. Balabas I returned to the alcove 
adjoining the ball-room. Dancing was in full swing, 
and I thought as we passed along the edge of the 
floor how easily I could have checked the festivities 
by announcing that Omar of Ispahan was present. 

The first sight to greet me upon entering the 
little palm-shaded alcove was that of Mrs. Van 
Heysten in tears. She had discovered herself to be 
wearing a very indifferent duplicate of her famous 
diamond tiara. 



102 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

I think it was my action of sootMngly patting 
her upon the shoulder that drew Chundermeyer's 
attention to my Hatshepsu scarab. 

**Mr. Kernabyl'' he cried— *' Mr. Kemahy!" 
And pointed to my finger. 

I had had the scarab set in a revolving bezel, 
and habitually wore it with the beetle nppermost 
and the cartouche concealed. As I glanced down 
at the ring, Chundermeyer stretched out his hand 
and detached it from my finger. Approaching the 
light, he turned the bezel. 

The flat part of the scarab was quite blank, bear- 
ing no inscription whatever. Like Lady Collis 's rope 
of pearls, Mrs. Van Heysten's tiara, and Chunder- 
meyer 's diamonds, it was a worthless and very in- 
different duplicate I 



IT 



Never can I forget the scene in that crowded little 
room — ^poor M. Balabas all anxiety respecting the 
reputation of his establishment, and vainly endeavor- 
ing to reason with the victims of the amazing Omar 
Khan. Finally— 

**I will search for Inspector Carlisle myself,'' said 
Mr. Chundermeyer; '*and if I cannot find him, I 
shall be compelled to communicate with the local 
police authorities.'' 

M. Balabas still volubly protesting, the unfor- 
tunate Veiled Prophet made his way from the alcove. 
I cannot say if the inspiration came as the result 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 103 

of a sort of auto-hypnosis induced by staring at the 
worthless ring in my hand — the stone was not even 
real lapis-lazuli— but a theory regarding the manner 
in which these ingenious substitutions had been 
effected suddenly entered my mind. 

Three minutes later I was knocking at the door 
of Chundermeyer's room. I received no invitation 
to enter, and the door was locked. I sought M. 
Balabas; and, without confiding to him the theory 
upon which I was acting, I urged the desirability 
of gaining access to the apartment. As a result, a 
master key was procured, and we entered. 

At the first glance the room seemed to be empty, 
though it showed evidence of having recently been 
pccupied, for it was in the utmost disorder. Perhaps 
we should have quitted it unenlightened, if I had 
not detected the sound of a faint groan proceeding 
from the closed wardrobe. Stepping across the 
room, I opened the double doors, and out into my 
arms fell a limp figure, bound hand and foot, and 
having a bath-towel secured tightly around the head 
to act as a gag. It was Mr. Chundermeyer I 

I think, as I helped to unfasten him, I was the 
most surprised man in the land of Egypt. He was 
arrayed only in a bath-robe and slippers, and his 
bare wrists and ankles were cruelly galled by the 
cords which had bound him. For some minutes 
he was unable to utter a word, and when at last 
he achieved speech, his first utterance constituted a 
verbal thunderbolt. 

**I have been robbed I" he cried huskily, **I was 



104 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

sand-bagged as I came from my bath, and look— ^ 
everyone of my cases is gone!" 

It was M. Balabas who answered him. 

*'As you returned from your hath, Mr. Chunder- 
meyer ? " he said. * * At what time was that ? ' ' . 

** About a quarter-past seven," was the amazing 
reply. 

**But, good Heaven!" cried M. Balabas, ^*I was 
speaking to you less than ten minutes ago !" 

**You are mad!" groaned Chundermeyer, rubbing 
his bruised wrists. ^^Have I not been locked in the 
wardrobe all night ! ' ' 

**Ah, merciful saints," cried \l. Balabas, dramati- 
cally raising his clenched fists to heaven, **I see it 
all! You understand, Mr. Kemaby. It is not Mr. 
Chundermeyer with whom we have been conversing, 
in whose hands you have been placing your valuables, 
it is that devil incarnate who three years ago im- 
personated the Emir al-Hadj, in order to steal the 
Holy Carpet ; who can impersonate anyone ; who, it 
is said, can transform himself at will into an old 
woman, a camel, or a fig tree ; it is the conjuror, the 
wizard — Omar of Ispahan!" 

My own ideas were almost equally chaotic; for 
although, as I now recalled, I had never throughout 
the evening obtained a thoroughly good view of the! 
features of the veiled Prophet, I could have sworn 
to the voice, to the carriage, to the manner of Mr. 
Chundermeyer. 

The puzzling absence of Chief Inspector Carlisle 
now engaged everybody's attention ; and, acting upon 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 105 

the precedent afforded by the finding of Mr. Chnnder- 
meyer, we paid a visit to the detective's room. 

Inspector Carlisle, fully dressed, and still wearing 
a soft felt hat, as though he had but just come in, lay 
on the floor, unconscious, with the greater part of 
a cigar, which examination showed to be drugged, 
close beside him. 

As I entered my room that night and switched 
on the light, in through the open window from the 
balcony stepped Abu Tabah. 

His frequent and mysterious appearances in my 
private apartments did not surprise me in the least, 
anjd I had even ceased to wonder how he accom- 
plished them ; but — 

**You are too late, my friend," I said. ''Olnar 
of Ispahan has outwitted you." 

*'Omar of Ispahan has outwitted men wiser than 
I," he replied gravely; **but covetousness is a 
treacherous master, and I am not without hope that 
we may yet circumvent the father of thieves." 

*'You are surely jesting," I replied. **In all 
probability he is now far from Cairo." 

**I, on the contrary, have reason to believe," re- 
plied Abu Tabah calmly, **that he is neither far 
from Cairo, far from the hotel, nor far from this 
very apartment." 

His manner was strange and I discoverd excite- 
ment to be growing within me. 

** Accompany me on the balcony," he said; **but 
first extinguish the light" 



106 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

A moment later I stood looking down upon the 
moon-bathed gardens, and Abn Tabah, beside me, 
stretched out his hand. 

**Yon see the projecting portion of the building 
yonder r' 

'*Yes," I replied; *'the Harem Suite.'' 

** Immediately before the window there is a palm 
tree. ' ' 

**I have observed if 

**And upon the opposite side of the path there 
is an acacia." 

'*Yes; I see iV 

**The moon is high, and whilst all the side of the 
hotel is in shadow the acacia is in the moonlight. 
Its branches would afford concealment, however; 
and one watching there could see what would be 
hidden from one on this balcony 7 request you, 
Keniaby Pasha, to approach that lehhehh tree from 
the further side of the fountain, in order to remain 
invisible from the hotel. Climb to one of the lower 
branches, and closely watch four windows. ' ' 

I stared at him in the darkness. 

** Which are the four windows that I am to 
watch?'' 

**They are — one, that immediately below your 
own ; two, that to the right of it ; three, the ^vdndow 
above the Harem Suite ; and, four, the extreme east 
window of this wing, on the first floor." 

Now, my state of mystification grew even denser. 
For the windows specified were, in the order of 
mention, that of Inspector Carlisle, who had not 



OMAR OP ISPAHAlSr 107 

yet recovered consciousness; of Mr. Chnixdermeyer; 
of Major Redpath, a retired Anglo-Indian who had 
been confined to his room for some time with an 
attack of malaria ; and of M. Balabas, the manager. 

**For what,'* I inquired, **am I to watch?" 

**For a man to descend." 

**And thenr' 

**You will hold yonr open watch case where it is 
clearly visible from this spot. Instant upon the 
man's appearance you will cover it up, and then 
uncover it, either once, twice, thrice, or four times." 

'* After which?" 

** Remain scrupulously concealed. Have the 
collar of your dinner jacket turned up in order to 
betray as little whiteness as possible. Do not inter- 
fere with the man who descends; but if he enters 
the Harem Suite, see that he does not come out 
again I There is no time for further explanation, 
Kernaby Pasha; it is Omar of Ispahan with whom 
we have to deal I" 



Perched up amid the foliage of the acacia, I com- 
menced that singular guard imposed upon me by 
Abu Tabah. Did he suspect one of these four per- 
sons of being the notorious Omar? Or had his 
mysterious instructions some other significance? 
The problem defied me ; and, recognizing that I was 
hopelessly at sea, I abandoned useless conjecture 
and merely watched. 



108 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Nor was my vigil a long one. I doubt if I had 
been at my post for ten minutes ere a vague figure 
appeared upon the shadow-veiled balcony of one 
of the suspected windows — that of Major Redpath, 
above the Harem Suite ! 

Scarcely daring to credit my eyes, I saw the 
figure throw down on to the projecting top of the 
mushrabiyeh window below a slender rope ladder. 
I covered the gleaming gold of my watch-case with 
my hand, and gave the signal — three. 

The spirit of phantasy embraced me; and, un- 
moved to further surprise, I watched the unknown 
swarm down the ladder with the agility of an ape. 
He seemed to wear a robe, surely that of the Veiled 
Prophet! He silently manipulated one of the side- 
panels of the window, opened it, and vanished within 
the Harem Suite. 

Raising my eyes, I beheld a second figure — that 
of Abu Tabah — descending a similar ladder to the 
balcony of Inspector Carlisle's room. He gained 
the balcony and entered the room. Four seconds 
elapsed; he reappeared, unfurled a greater length 
of ladder, and came down to the flower-beds. Lithely 
as a cat he came to the projecting mushrabiyeh. 
swung himself aloft, and as I watched breathlessly, 
expecting him to enter in pursuit of the intruder, 
climbed to the top and began to mount the ladder 
descending from Alajor Redpath's room! 

He had just reached the major's balcony, and 
was stepping through the open window, when a most 
alarming din arose in the Harem Suite; evidently a 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 109 

fierce struggle was proceeding in the apartments of 
the Mudir's daughter! 

I scrambled down from the acacia and ran to the 
spot immediately below the window, arriving at the 
very moment that the central lattice was thrown 
open, and a white-veiled figure appeared there and 
prepared to spring down ! Perceiving my approach : 

**0h, help me, in the name of Allah!'* cried the 
woman, in a voice shrill with fear. ** Quick — catch 
me!'' 

Ere I could frame any reply, she clutched at the 
palm tree and dropped down right into my extended 
arms, as a crashing of overturned furniture came 
from the room above. 

**Help them!" she entreated. **You are armed, 
and my women are being murdered. ' ' 

**Help, Kernaby Pasha!" now reached my ears, 
in the unmistakable voice of Abu Tabah, from some- 
where within. ^'See that he does not escape from 
the window!" 

*' Coming!" I cried. 

And, by means of the palm trunk, I began to 
mount towards the open lattice. 

Gaining my objective, I stumbled into a room 
which presented a scene of the wildest disorder. It 
was a large apartment, well but sparsely furnished 
in the Eastern manner, and lighted by three hanging 
lamps. Directly under one of these, beside an over- 
turned cabinet of richly carven wood inlaid with 
mo ther-o '-pearl, lay a Nubian, insensible, and 
arrayed only in shirt and trousers. There was no 



110 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

one else in the room, and, not pansing to explore 
those which opened out of it, I ran and unbolted 
the heavy door upon which Abu Tabah was clamor- 
ing for admittance. 

The imam leaped into the room, rebolted the door, 
and glanced to the right and left; then he ran 
into the adjoining apartments, and finally, observ- 
ing the insensible Nubian upon the floor, he stared 
into my face, and I read anger in the eyes that were 
wont to be so gentle. 

**Did T not enjoin you to prevent his escape from 
the window?'* he cried. 

*'No one escaped from the window, my friend," 
I retorted, ** except the lady who was occupying 
the suite.'' 

Abu Tabah fixed his weird eyes upon me in a 
hypnotic stare of such uncanny power that I was 
angrily conscious of much difficulty in sustaining it ; 
but gradually the quelling look grew less harsh, 
and finally his whole expression softened, and that 
sweet smile, which could so transform his face, dis- 
turbed the severity of the set lips. 

* * No man is infallible, ' ' he said. ^ * And wiser than 
you or I have shown themselves the veriest fools 
in contest with Omar Ali Khan. But know, O 
Kernaby Pasha, that the lady who occupied this 
suite secretly left it at sunset to-night, bearing her 
jewels with her, and he" — pointing to the insensible 
Nubian on the floor — *Hook her place and wore her 
raiment " 

''Then the Mudir's daughter " 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 111 

**Is my sister Ayeshal'* 

I looked at him reproachfully, but he met my gaze 
with calm pride. 

'* Subterfuge was permitted by the Prophet, (on 
whom be peace),'' he continued; **but not lying! 
My sister is the daughter of the Mudir el- 
/"ayum. ' ' 

It was a rebuke, perhaps a merited one; and 1 
accepted it in silence. Although, from the moment 
that I had first set eyes on him, I had never doubted 
Abu Tabah to be a man of good family, this modest 
avowal was something of a revelation. 

**Her presence here, which was permitted by my 
father,'' he said, **was a trap; for it is well known 
throughout the Moslem world that she is the pos- 
sessor of costly ornaments. The trap succeeded. 
Omar of Ispahan, at great risk of discovery, re- 
mained to steal her jewels, although he had already 
amassed a choice collection." 

Someone had begun to bang upon the bolted door, 
and there was an excited crowd beneath the window. 

'*You supposed, no doubt," the imam resumed 
calmly, **that I suspected Major Redpath and M, 
Balabas, as well as Mr. Chundermeyer and the 
English detective? It was not so. But I regarded 
the room of M. Balabas as excellently situated for 
Omar's purpose, and I knew that M. Balabas rarely 
retired earlier than one o'clock. Even more suitable 
was that of Major Redpath, whose illness I believe to 
have been due to some secret art of Omar's." 

**But he is down with chronic malaria!" 



112 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

*^It may even be so; yet I believe the attack to 
have been induced by Omar of Ispahan.'' 

''But why?'' 

'^Because, as I learned to-night, Major Bedpath 
is the only person in Cairo who has ever met- Mr. 
Chundermeyer ! I will confess that until less than 
an hour ago I did not know if Inspector Carlisle 
was really an inspector! Oh, it is a seeming ab- 
surdity; but Omar of Ispahan is a wizard! There- 
fore I entered the inspector's room, and found him 
to be still unconscious. Major Redpath was in deep 
slumber, and Omar had entered and quitted his 
room without disturbing him. I did likewise, and 
visited Mr. Chundermeyer 's — the door was ajar — 
©n my way downstairs." 

**But, my friend," I said amazedly, ''with my 
own eyes I beheld Mr. Chundermyer gagged and 
bound in his wardrobe ! I saw his bruised wrists ! ' ' 

"He gae^fired, bound, and bruised himself!" 
replied Abu Tabah calmly. "With my own eyes 
I once beheld a blind mendicant hanging by the neck 
from a fig tree, a bloody froth upon his lips. I cut 
him down and left him for dead. Yet was he neither 
dead nor a blind mendicant ; he was Omar Ali Khan/ 
Oblige me by opening the door, Kemaby Pasha." 

I obeyed, and an excited throng burst in, headed 
by M. Balabas and Inspector Carlisle, the latter 
looking very pale and haggard ! 

"Where is the man posing as Chundermeyer?" 
besran the detective hoarsely. "By sheer sleight* 
of -hand, and under ye 're very noses" — excitement 



OMAR OF ISPAHAN 113 

rendered him weirdly Caledonian — **he has robbed 
ye! I cabled Madras to-day, and the real Chunder- 
meyer arrived at Amsterdam last Friday! As I 
returned with the reply cable in my pocket to-night 
I became so dizzy I was only jnst able to get to my 
room. He'd doctored every smoke in my case! 
Where is he?" 

**I assisted him to escape, disguised as a woman, 
some ten minutes ago,'' I replied feebly. **I should 
be sincerely indebted to you if you would kick me." 

'* Escaped!" roared Inspector Carlisle. **Then 
what are ye doing here! Pursue him, somebody! 
Are ye all mad?" 

'*We should be," said Abu Tabah, ^Ho attempt 
pursuit. A^ well pursue the shadow of a cloud, the 
first spear of sunrise, or the phantom heifer of Pepi- 
Ankh, as pursue Omar of Ispahan! He is gone — 
but empty-handed. Behold what I recovered from 
*Mr. Chundermeyer's' room." 

From beneath his black gihheh he took out a 
leather bag, opened it, and displayed to our startled 
eyes the tiara of Mrs. Van Heysten, the rope of 
pearls, and — ^my Hatshepsu scarab ! 

Ere anyone could utter a word, Abu Tabah in- 
clined his head in dignified salutation, turned, and 
walked stately from the room. 



V 

BREATH OF ALLAH 



FOR close upon a week I had been haunting 
the purlieus of the Muski, attired as a respect- 
able dragoman, my face and hands reduced to 
a deeper shade of brown by means of a water-color 
paint (I had to use something that could be washed 
off and grease-paint is useless for purposes of actual 
disguise) and a neat black moustache fixed to my lip 
with spirit-gum. In his story Beyond the Pale, 
Rudyard Kipling has trounced the man who inquires 
too deeply into native life ; but if everybody thought 
with Kipling we should never have had a Lane or a 
Burton and I should have continued in unbroken 
scepticism regarding the reality of magic. "Whereas, 
because of the matters which I am about to set forth, 
for ten minutes of my life I found myself a trembling 
slave of the unknown. 

Let me explain at once that my undignified mas- 
querade was not prompted by mere curiosity or the 
quest of the pomegranate, it was undertaken as the 
natural sequel to a letter received from Messrs. 
Moses, Murphy and Co., the firm which I represented 
in Egypt, containing curious matters affording much 
food for reflection. **We would ask you," ran the 
communication, **to renew your inquiries into the 

114 



BREATH OF ALLAH U5 

partciular compositoin of the perfume 'Breath of 
Allah,' of which you obtained us a sample at a cost 
which we regarded as excessive. It appears to con- 
sist in the blending of certain obscure essential oils 
and gum-resins ; and the nature of some of these has 
defied analysis to date. Over a hundred experi- 
ments have been made to discover substitutes for 
the missing essences, but without success ; and as we 
are now in a position to arrange for the manufacture 
of Oriental perfume on an extensive scale we 
should be prepared to make it well worth your while 
(the last four words characteristically underlined 
in red ink) if you could obtain for us a correct 
copy of the original prescription." 

The letter went on to say that it was proposed 
to establish a separate company for the exploita- 
tion of the new perfume, with a registered address 
in Cairo and a ** manufactory" in some suitably 
inaccessible spot in the Near East. 

I pondered deeply over these matters. The scheme 
was a good one and could not fail to reap consider- 
able profits; for, given extensive advertising, there 
is always a large and monied public for a new smelL 
The particular blend of liquid fragrance to which the 
letter referred was assured of a good sale at a high 
price, not alone in Egypt, but throughout the capitals 
of the world, provided it could be put upon the 
market; but the proposition of manufacture was 
beset with extraordinary difficulties. 

The tiny vial which I had despatched to Birming- 
ham nearly twelve months before had cost me close 



116 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

upon £100 to procure, for the reason that ** Breath 
of Allah" was the secret property of an old and 
aristocratic Egyptian family whose great wealth and 
exclusiveness rendered them unapproachable. By 
dint of diligent inquiry I had discovered the attar 
to whom was entrusted certain final processes in 
the preparation of the perfume — only to learn that 
he was ignorant of its exact composition. But al- 
though he had assured me (and I did not doubt 
his word) that not one grain had hitherto passed 
out of the possession of the family, I had succeeded 
in procurins: a small quantity of the precious fluid. 

Messrs. Moses, Murphy and Co. had made all the 
necessary arrangements for placing it upon the 
market, only to learn, as this eventful letter advised 
me, that the most skilled chemists whose services 
were obtainable had failed to analyse it. 

One morning, then, in my assumed character, J 
was proceeding along the Sharia el-Hamzawi seek- 
ing for some scheme whereby I might win the con- 
fidence of Mohammed er-Rahman the attar, or per- 
fumer. I had quitted the house in the Darb el-Ahmar 
which was my base of operations but a few minutes 
earlier, and as I approached the corner of the street 
a voice called from a window directly above my 
head: *^Said! Said!" 

Without supposing that the call referred to my- 
self, I glanced up, and met the gaze of an old Egyp- 
tian of respectable appearance who was regarding 
me from above. Shading his eyes with a gnarled 
hand — 



BREATH OF ALLAH 117 

** Surely," he cried, *'it is none other than Said 
the nephew of Yiissuf Khalig! Es-seldm 'aleykum, 
Said!'' 

''AleyMm, es-seldm/' I replied, and stood there 
looking Tip at him. 

*' Would you perform a little service for ine, 
Sai'd?'' he continued. '*It will occupy you but an 
hour and you may earn ^ve piastres." 

'* Willingly," I replied, not knowing to what the 
mistake of this evidently half-blind old man might 
lead me. 

I entered the door and mounted the stairs to the 
room in which he was, to find that he lay upon a 
scantily covered diwan by the open window. 

''Praise be to Allah (whose name be exalted) !" 
he exclaimed, ''that I am thus fortunately enabled 
to fulfil my obligations. I sometimes suffer from 
an old serpent bite, my son, and this morning it 
has obliged me to abstain from all movement. I am 
called Abdul the Porter, of whom you will have 
heard your uncle speak; and although I have long 
retired from active labor myself, I contract for the 
supply of porters and carriers of all descriptions 
and for all purposes; conveying fair ladies to the 
hammdm, youth to the bridal, and death to the 
grave. Now, it was written that you should arrive 
at this timely hour." 

I considered it highly probable that it was also 
written how I should shortly depart if this garrulous 
old man continued to inflict upon me details of his 
absurd career. However — 



118 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 



n 



I have a contract with the merchant, Mohammed 
er-Rahman of the Suk el- Attarin, ' ' he continued, 
*' which it has always been my custom personally to 
carry out.'* 

The words almost caused me to catch my breath ; 
and my opinion of Abdul the Porter changed extra- 
ordinary. Truly my lucky star had guided my foot- 
steps that morning I 

''Do not misunderstand me/' he added. *'I refer 
not to the transport of his wares to Suez, to Zagazig, 
to Mecca, to Aleppo, to Baghdad, Damascus, Kan- 
dahar, and Pekin; although the whole of these vast 
enterprises is entrusted to none other than the only 
son of my father: I speak, now, of the bearing of a 
small though heavy box from the great magazine and 
manufactory of Mohammed er-Rahman at Shubra, 
to his shop in the Suk el-Attarin, a matter which I 
have arranged for him on the eve of the Molid en- 
Nebi (birthday of the Prophet) for the past ^ve- 
and-thirty years. Every one of my porters to whom 
I might entrust this special charge is otherwise em- 
ployed; hence my observation that it was written 
how none other than yourself should pass beneath 
this window at a certain fortunate hour.'* 

Fortunate indeed had that hour been for me, and 
my pulse beat far from normally as I put the ques- 
tion : * * Why, Father Abdul, do you attach so much 
importance to this seemingly trivial matter?" 

The face of Abdul the Porter, which resembled 
that of an intelligent mule, assumed an expression 
of low cunninar. 



BREATH OF ALLAH 119 

'*The question is well conceived," lie said, raising 
a long forefinger and wagging it at me. **And who 
in all Cairo knows so much of the secrets of the 
great as Abdul the Know-all, Abdul the Taciturn I 
Ask me of the fabled wealth of Karafa Bey and I 
will name you every one of his possessions and 
entertain you with a calculation of his income, which 
I have worked out in nuss-faddah!* Ask me of the 
amber mole upon the shoulder of the Princess Aziza 
and I will describe it to you in such a manner as to 
ravish your soul! Whisper, my son" — ^he bent to- 
wards me confidentially — ''once a year the merchant 
Mohammed er-Rahman prepares for the Lady 
Zuleyka a quantity of the perfume which impious 
tradition has called 'Breath of Allah.' The father 
of Mohammed er-Rahman prepared it for the mother 
of the Lady Zuleyka and his father before him for 
the lady of that day who held the secret — ^the secret 
which has belonged to the women of this family since 
the reign of the Khalif el-Hakim from whose favorite 
wife they are descended. To her, the wife of the 
Khalif, the first dirJiem (drachm) ever distilled of 
the perfume was presented in a gold vase, together 
with the manner of its preparation, by the great 
wizard and physician Ibn Sina of Bokhara" 
(Avicenna). 

"You are well called Abdul the Know-all I" I 
cried in admiration. "Then the secret is held by 
Mohammed er-Rahman?" 

"Not so, my son," replied AbduL "Certain of 

• A n<i88-faddah equals a quarter of a farthing. 



120 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

the essences employed are brought, in sealed vessels, 
from the house of the Lady Zuleyka, as is also the 
brass coffer containing the writing of Ibn Sina ; and 
throughout the measuring of the quantities, the 
secret writing never leaves her hand.'' 

**What, the Lady Zuelyka attends in person!'' 

Abdul the Porter inclined his head serenely. 

*^0n the eve of the birthday of the Prophet, the 
Lady Zuelyka visits the shop of Mohammed er- 
Eahman, accompanied by an imam from one of the 
great mosques." 

**Why by an imam, Father Abdul T' 

** There is a magical ritual which must be observed 
in the distillation of the perfume, and each essence 
is blessed in the name of one of the four archangels; 
and the whole operation must commence at the hour 
of midnight on the eve of the Molid en-Nebi." 

He peered at me triumphantly. 

** Surely," I protested, **an experienced attar such 
as Mohammed er-Rahman would readily recognize 
these secret ingredients by their smell?" 

**A great pan of burning charcoal," whispered 
Abdul dramatically, * * is placed upon the floor of the 
room, and throughout the operation the attendant 
imam casts pungent spices upon it, whereby the 
nature of the secret essences is rendered unrecog- 
nizable. It is time you depart, my son, to the shop 
of Mohammed, and I will give you a writing making 
you known to him. Your task will be to carry the 
materials necessary for the secret operation (which 
takes place to-night) from the inagazine of 



BREATH OF ALIiAH 121 

Mohammed er-Rahman at Shubra, to his shop in the 
Suk el-Attarin. My eyesight is far from good, Said. 
Do you write as I direct and I will place my name to 
the letter.'' 



The words *'well worth your while" had kept 
time to my steps, or I doubt if I should have sur- 
vived the odious journey from Shubra. Never can 
I forget the shape, color, and especially the weight, 
of the locked chest which was my burden. Old 
Mohammed er-Rahman had accepted my service on 
the strength of the letter signed by Abdul, and of 
course, had failed to recognize in ^*Said'' that Hon. 
Neville Kernaby who had certain confidential deal- 
ings with him a year before. But exactly how I was 
to profit by the fortunate accident which had led 
Abdul to mistake me for someone called **Said'' 
became more and more obscure as the box grew 
more and more heavy. So that by the time that I 
actually arrived with my burden at the entrance to 
the Street of the Perfumers, my heart had hardened 
towards Abdul the Know-all; and, setting my box 
upon the ground, I seated myself upon it to rest and 
to imprecate at leisure that silent cause of my 
present exhaustion. 

After a time my troubled spirit grew calmer, as I 
sat there inhaling the insidious breath of Tonquin 
musk, the fragrance of attar of roses, the sweetness 
of Indian spikenard and the stinging pungency of 



122 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

myrrli, opoponax ,and Mang-ylang. Faintly I could 
detect the perfume which I have always coniited 
the most exquisite of all save one — that delightful 
preparation of Jasmine peculiarly Egyptian. But 
the mystic breath of frankincense and erotic fumes 
of ambergris alike left me unmoved ; for amid these 
odors, through which it has always seemed to me that 
that of cedar runs thematically, I sought in vain for 
any hint of ** Breath of Allah." 

Fashionable Europe and America were well repre. 
sented as usual in the Suk el-Attarin, but the little 
shop of Mohammed er-Rahman was quite deserted, 
although he dealt in the most rare essences of all. 
Mohammed, however, did not seek Western patron- 
age, nor was there in the heart of the little white- 
bearded merchant any envy of his seemingly more 
prosperous neighbors in whose shops New York, 
London, and Paris smoked amber-scented cigarettes, 
and whose wares were carried to the uttermost cor- 
ners of the earth. There is nothing more illusory 
than the outward seeming of the Eastern merchant. 
The wealthiest man with whom I was acquainted in 
the Muski had the aspect of a mendicant ; and whilst 
Mohammed's neighbors sold phials of essence and 
tiny boxes of pastilles to the patrons of Messrs. 
Cook, were not the silent caravans following the 
ancient desert routes laden with great crates ot 
sweet merchandise from the manufactory at Shubraf 
To the city of Mecca alone Mohammed sent annually 
perfumes to the value of two thousand pounds ster- 
ling; he manufactured three kinds of incense ex- 



BREATH OF ALLAH 123 

olusively for the royal house of Persia ; and his wares 
were known from Alexandria to Kashmir, and prized 
alike in Stambul and Tartary. Well might he watxjh 
with tolerant smile the more showy activities of his 
less fortunate competitors. 

The shop of Mohammed er-Rahman was at the 
end of the street remote from the Hamzawi (Cloth 
Bazaar), and as I stood up to resume my labors 
my mood of gloomy abstraction was changed as 
much by a certain atmosphere of expectancy — I can* 
not otherwise describe it — as by the familiar smells 
of the place. I had taken no more than three paces 
onward into the Sak ere it seemed to me that all 
business had suddenly become suspended; only the 
Western element of the throng remained outside 
whatever influence had claimed the Orientals. Then 
presently the visitors, also becoming awar« of this 
expectant hush as I had become aware of it, turned 
almost with one accord, and following the direction 
of the merchants' glances, gazed up the narrow 
etreet towards the Mosque of el-Ashraf . 

And here I must chronicle a curious circumstance. 
Of the Imam Abu Tabah I had seen nothing for 
several weeks, but at this moment I suddenly found 
myself thinking of that remarkable man. Whilst 
any mention of his name, or nickname — for I could 
not believe ** Tabah '^ to be patronymic — amongst 
the natives led only to pious ejaculations indicative 
of respectful fear, by the official v/orld he was tacitly 
disowned. Yet I had indisputable evidence to show 
that few doors in Cairo, or indeed in all Egypt, were 



124 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

closed to him; he came and went like a phantom. 
I should never have been surprised, on entering my 
private apartments at Shepheard's, to have found 
him seated therein, nor did I question the veracity 
of a native acquaintance who assured me that he. had 
met the mysterious imam in Aleppo on the same 
morning that a letter from his partner in Cairo had 
arrived mentioning a visit by Abu Tabah to el-Azhar. 
But throughout the native city he was known as the 
Magician and was very generally regarded as a 
master of the ginn. Once more depositing my burden 
upon the ground, then, I gazed with the rest in the 
direction of the mosque. 

It was curious, that moment of perfumed silence, 
and my imagination, doubtless inspired by the mem- 
ory of Abu Tabah, was carried back to the days of 
the great Jchalifs, which never seem far removed 
from one in those mediaeval streets. I was trans- 
ported to the Cairo of Harun al Raschid, and I 
thought that the Grand Wazir on some mission from 
Baghdad was visiting the Suk el-Attarin. 

Then, stately through the silent group, came a 
black-robed, white-turbaned figure outwardly similar 
to many others in the bazaar, but followed by two 
tall muffled negroes. So still was the place that I 
could hear the tap of his ebony stick as he strode 
along the centre of the street. 

At the shop of Mohammed er-Rahman he paused, 
exchanging a few words with the merchant, then 
resumed his way, coming down the Suk towards 
me. His glanc<^ met mine, as I stood there beside 



BREATH OF ATJ.AH 125 

the box ; and, to my amazement, he saluted me with 
smiling dignity and passed on. Had he, too, mis- 
taken me for Said — or had his all-seeing gaze 
detected beneath my disguise the features of Nevilk 
Kemaby? 

As he turned out of the narrow street into the 
Hamzawi, the commercial uproar was resumed in- 
stantly, so that save for this horrible doubt which 
had set my heart beating with uncomfortable rapidi- 
ty, by all the evidences now about me his coming 
might have been a dream. 

in 

Pilled with misgivings, I carried the box along 
to the shop; but Mohammed er-Rahman's greeting 
held no hint of suspicion. 

'*By fleetness of foot thou shalt never win Para- 
dise,'* he said. 

**Nor by unseemly haste shall I thrust others from 
the path,'' I retorted. 

**It is idle to bandy words with any acquaintance 
of Abdul the Porter's," sighed Mohammed; **well 
do I know it. Take up the box and follow me." 

With a key which he carried attached to a chaia 
about his waist, he unlocked the ancient door which 
alone divided his shop from the out jutting wall mark- 
ing a bend in the street. A native shop is usually 
no::hing more than a double cell; but descending 
three stone steps, I found myself in one of those 
cellar-like apartments which are not uncommon in 
this part of Cairo. Windows there were none, if I 



126 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

except a small square opening, high up in one of the 

walls, which evidently communicated with the narrow 
courtyard separating Mohammed's establishmeni 
from that of his neighbor, but which admitted scanty 
light and less ventilation. Through this opening I 
could see what looked like the uplifted shafts of a 
cart. From one of the rough beams of the rather 
lofty ceiling a brass lamp hung by chains, and a 
quantity of primitive chemical paraphernalia littered 
the place; old-fashioned alembics, mysterious look- 
ing: jars, and a sort of portable furnace, together 
with several tripods and a number of large, flat brass 
pans gave the place the appearance of some old 
alchemist's den. A rather handsome ebony table, 
intricately carved and inlaid with mother-o '-pearl 
and ivory, stood before a cushioned dhvan which 
occupied that side of the room in which was the 
square window. 

*^Set the box upon the floor," directed Mohammed, 
^*but not with, such undue dispatch as to cause thy- 
self to sustain an injury." 

That he had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of 
the box and was now bumingly anxious to witness 
tny departure, grew more and more apparent with 
every word. Therefore — 

** There are asses who are fleet of foot," I said, 
leisurely depositing my load at his feet; **but the 
wise man regulateth his pace in accordance with 
three things: the heat of the sun; the welfare of 
others ; and the nature of his burden. ' ' 

**That thou hast frequently paused on the way 



BREATH OF ALLAH 12t 

from Shnbra to relSect upon these three things," 
replied Mohammed, '*I cannot doubt; depart, ther^- 
fore, and ponder them at leisure, for I perceive that 
thon art a great philosopher." 

** Philosophy," I continued, seating myself upon 
the box, '^sustaineth the mind, but the activity of 
the mind being dependent upon the welfare of the 
stomach, even the philosopher cannot afford to labor 
■without hire." 

At that, Mohammed er-Rahman unloosed upon me 
a long pent-up torrent of invective — and furnished 
me with the information which I was seeking. 

**0 son of a wall-eyed mule!" he cried, shaking 
his fists over me, **no longer will I suffer thy idiotic 
chatter ! Return to Abdul the Porter, who employed 
thee, for not one faddah will I give thee, calamitous 
mongrel that thou art ! Depart ! for I was but this 
moment informed that a lady of high station is about 
to visit me. Depart I lest she mistake my shop for 
a pigsty." 

But even as he spoke the words, I became aware 
of a vague disturbance in the street, and — 

**Ah!" cried Mohammed, running to the foot of 
the steps and gazing upwards, **now am I utterly 
undone! Shame of thy parents that thou art, it 
is now unavoidable that the Lady Zuleyka shall find 
thee in my shop. Listen, offensive insect — thou art 
Sa'id, my assistant. Utter not one word; or with 
this" — ^to my great alarm he produced a dangerous- 
looking pistol from beneath his robe — **will I bloir 
a hole through thy vacuous skull!" 



138 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Hastily concealing the pistol, he went hurrying up 
the steps, in time to perform a low salutation before 
a veiled woman who was accompanied by a Sudanese 
servant-girl and a negro. Exchanging some words 
with her which I was unable to detect, Mohammed 
er-Bahman led the way down into the apartment 
wherein I stood, followed by the lady, who in turn 
was followed by her servant The negro remained 
above. Perceiving me as she entered, the lady, who 
was attired with extraordinary elegance, paused, 
glancing at Mohammed. 

**My lady,'* he began immediately, bowing before 
her, *4t is Said my assistant, the slothfulness of 
whose habits is only exceeded by the impudence of 
his conversation.*' 

She hesitated, bestowing upon me a glance of her 
beautiful eyes. Despite the gloom of the place and 
the yashmak which she wore, it was manifest that 
she was good to look upon. A faint but exquisite 
perfume stole to my nostrils, whereby I knew that 
Mohammed's charming visitor was none other than 
the Lady Zuleyka. 

**Yet," she said softly, *^he hath the look of an 
active young man. ' ' 

**His activity," replied the scent merchant, 
*'resideth entirely in his tongue." 

The Lady Zuleyka seated herself upon the diwan, 
looking all about the apartment. 

'^Everything is in readiness, Mohammed?" i^e 
asked. 

"Everything, my lady." 



BREATH OF ALLAH 129 

Again the beautiful eyes were turned in my direc- 
tion, and, as their inscrutable gaze rested upon me, 
a scheme — ^which, since it was never carried out, 
need not be described — ^presented itself to my mind. 
Following a brief but eloquent silence — for my an- 
gw^ering glances were laden with significance : — 

**0 Mohammed, '* said the Lady Zuleyka indolent- 
ly, **in what manner doth a merchant, such as thy- 
self, chastise his servants when their conduct 
displeaseth him?'* 

Mohammed er-Rahman seemed somewhat at a loss 
for a reply, and stood there staring foolishly. 

**I have whips for mine,*' murmured the soft 
Toioe. **It is an old custom of my family." 

Slowly she cast her eyes in my direction once 
more. 

**It seemed to me, Said," she continued, grace- 
fully resting one jeweled hand upon the ebony table, 
**that thou hadst presumed to cast love-glances upon 
me. There is one waiting above whose duty it is to 
protect me from such insults. Miska ! ' ' — to the ser- 
vant girl — ** summon El-Kimri (The Dove)." 

Whilst I stood there dumbfounded and abashci 
the girl called up the steps : 

** El-Kimri I Come hither!" 

Instantly there burst into the room the form of 
that hideous negro whom I had glimpsed above; 
and — 

**0 Kimri," directed the Lady Zuleyka, and 
languidly extended her hand in my direction, ** throw 
this presumptuous clown into the street I" 



130 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

My discomfiture had proceeded far enough, and 
I recognized that, at whatever risk of discovery, 
I must act instantly. Therefore, at the moment that 
El-Kimri reached the foot of the steps, I dashed 
my left fist into his grinning face, putting all my 
weight behind the blow, which I followed up with 
a short right, utterly outraging the pugilistic pro- 
prieties, since it was well below the belt. El-Kimri 
Mt the dust to the accompaniment of a human discord 
eemposed of three notes — and I leaped up the steps, 
turned to the left, and ran off around the Mosque 
of el-Ashraf, where I speedily lost myself in the 
crowded Ghuriya. 

Beneath their factitious duskiness my cheecks 
were burning hotly : I was ashamed of my execrable 
artistry. For a druggist's assistant does not lightly 
make love to a duchess ! 



IV 



I spent the remainder of the forenoon at my house 
in the Darb el-Ahmar heaping curses upon my own 
fatuity and upon the venerable head of Abdul the 
Know-all. At one moment it s^med to me that I 
had wantonly destroyed a golden opportunity, at 
the next that the seeming oportunity had been a 
mere mirage. With the passing of noon and the 
approach of evening I sought desperately for a plan, 
knowing that if I failed to conceive one by midnight, 
another chance of seeing the famous prescription 
•would probably not present itself for twelve months. 



BREATH OF ALLAH 131 

At about four o'clock in the afternoon came liHi 
da^\^l of a hazy idea, and since it necessitated a visit 
to my rooms at Shepheard's, I washed the paint otf 
my face and hands, changed, hurried to the hotel, 
ate a hasty meal, and returned to ihe Darb el-Ahmar, 
where I resumed my disguise. 

There are some who have criticized me harshly 
in regard to my commercial activities at this time, 
and none of my affairs has provoked greater acerbi- 
tude than that of the perfume called ** Breath of 
Allah.'* Yet I am at a loss to perceive wherein my 
perfidy lay ; for my outlook is sufficiently socialistic 
to cause me to regard with displeasure the conserv- 
ing by an individual of something which, without loss 
to himself, might reasonably be shared by the com- 
munity. For this reason I have always resented the 
way in which the Moslem veils the faces of the pearls 
of his harem. And whilst the success of my present 
enterprise would not render the Lady Zuleyka the 
poorer, it would enrich and beautify the world by 
delighting the senses of men with a perfume mort 
exquisite than any hitherto known. 

Such were my reflections as I made my way 
through the dark and deserted bazaar quarter, fol- 
lowing the Sharia el-Akkadi to the Mosque of el- 
Ashraf . There I turned to the left in the direction 
of the Hamzawi, until, coming to the narrow alley 
opening from it into the Suk el-Attarin, I plunged 
into its darkness, which was like that of a tunnel, 
although the upper parts of the houses above were 
silvered by the moon. 



132 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

I was making for that cramped little courtyard 
adjoining the shop of Mohammed er-Rahman in 
which I had observed the presence of one of those 
narrow high-wheeled carts peculiar to the district, 
and as the entrance thereto from the Suk was closed 
by a rough wooden fence I anticipated little diffi- 
cult in gaining access. Yet there was one difficulty 
which I had not foreseen, and which I had not met 
with had I arrived, as I might easily have arranged 
to do, a little earlier. Coming to the comer of iho 
Street of the Perfumers, I cautiously protruded my 
head in order to survey the prospect. 

Abu Tabah was standing immediately outside the 
shop of Mohammed er-Rahman I 

My heart gave a great leap as I drew back into 
the shadow, for I counted his presence of evil omen 
to the success of my enterprise. Then, a swift 
revelation, the truth burst in upon my mind. He 
was there in the capacity of imam and attendant 
magician at the mystical ** Blessing of the per- 
fumes ' ^ ! With cautious tread I retraced my steps, 
circled round the Mosque and made for the narrow 
street which runs parallel with that of the Perfumers 
and into which I knew the courtyard beside 
Mohammed's shop must open. What I did not know 
was how I was going to enter it from that end. 

I experienced unexpected difficulty in locating the 
place, for the height of the buildings about me ren- 
dered it impossible to pick up any familiar land- 
mark. Finally, having twice retraced my steps, I 
determined that a door of old but strong workman- 



BREATH OP ALLAH 133 

ship set in a lugh, thick wall must commmiicate with 
the courtyard; for I conkl see no other opening to 
the right or left through which it would have been 
possible for a vehicle to pass. 

Mechanically I tried the door, but, as I had antici- 
pated, found it to be securely locked. A profound 
silence reigned all about me and there was no window 
in sight from which my operations could be observed. 
Therefore, having planned out my route, I deter- 
mined to scale the wall. My first foothold was offered 
by the heavy wooden lock which projected fully six 
inches from the door. Above it was a crossbeam 
and then a gap of several inches between the top of 
the gate and the arch into which it was built. Above 
the arch projected an iron rod from which depended 
a hook; and if I could reach the bar it would be 
possible to get astride the wall. 

I reached the bar successfully, and although it 
proved to be none too firmly fastened, I took the 
chance and without making very much noise found 
myself perched aloft and looking down into the little 
eourt. A sigh of relief escaped me ; for the narrow 
cart with its disproportionate wheels stood there 
as I had seen it in the morning, its shafts pointing 
gauntly upward to where the moon of the Prophet's 
nativity swam in a cloudless sky. A dim light shona 
out from the square window of Mohammed er-Bah- 
man's cellar. 

Having studied the situation very carefully, I pre- 
sently perceived to my great satisfaction that whilst 
Ihe tail of the cart was wedged under a crossbar. 



134 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

which retained it in its position, one of the shafts 
was in reach of my hand. Thereupon I entrusted 
my weight to the shaft, swinging out over the well 
of the courtyard. So successful was I that only a 
faint creaking sound resulted ; and I descended into 
the vehicle almost silently. 

Having assured myself that my presence was un- 
discovered by Abu Tabah, I stood up cautiously, my 
hands resting upon the wall, and peered through 
the little \^dndow into the room. Its appearance 
had chanered somewhat. The lamp was lighted and 
shed a weird and subdued illumination upon a rough 
table placed almost beneath it. Upon this table were 
scales, measures, curiously shaped flasks, and odd- 
looking chemical apparatus which might have been 
made in the days of Avicenna himself. At one end 
of the table stood an alembic over a little pan in 
which burnt a spirituous flame. Mohammed er-Rah- 
man was placing cushions upon the diwan immedi- 
ately beneath me, but there was no one else in the 
room. Glancing upward, I noted that the height of 
the neighboring building prevented the moonlight 
from penetrating into the courtyard, so that my 
presence could not be detected by means of any light 
from without; and, since the whole of the upper 
part of the room was shadowed, I saw little cause 
for apprehension within. 

At this moment came the sound of a car approach- 
ing along the Sharia esh-Sharawani. I heard it 
stop, near the Mosque of el-Ashraf , and in the almost 
perfect stillness of those tortuous streets from which 



BREATH OF ALLAH 135 

by day arises a very babel of tongues I heard ap- 
proaching footsteps. I crouched down in the cart, 
as the footsteps came nearer, passed the end of the 
courtyard abutting on the Street of the Perfumers, 
and paused before the shop of Mohammed er-Rah- 
man. The musical voice of Abu Tabah spoke and 
that of the Lady Zuleyka answered. Came a loud 
rapping, and the creak of an opening door : then — 

*' Descend the steps, place the coffer on the table, 
and then remain immediately outside the door, ' ' con- 
tinued the imperious voice of the lady. **Make sure 
that there are no eavesdroppers.'' 

Faintly through the little window there reached 
my ears a sound as of some heavy object being placed 
upon a wooden surface, then a muffled disturbance 
as of several persons entering the room ; finally, the 
muffled bang of a door closed and barred . . . and 
soft footsteps in the adjoining street ! 

Crouching down in the cart and almost holding my 
breath, I watched through a hole in the side of the 
ramshackle vehicle that fence to which I have already 
referred as closing the end of the courtyard which 
adjoined the Suk el-Attarin. A spear of moonlight, 
penetrating through some gap in the surrounding 
buildings, silvered its extreme edge. To an accom- 
paniment of much kicking and heavy breathing, into 
this natural limelight arose the black countenance of 
**The Dove.'' To my unbounded joy I perceived 
that his nose was lavishly decorated with sticking- 
plaster and that his right eye was temporarily off 
duty. Eight fat fingers clutching at the top of the 



186 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

woodwork, the bloated negro regarded the apparent^ 
I7 empty yard for a space of some three seconds, 
ere lowering his ungainly bulk to the level of the 
itreet again. Followed a faint *'pop" and a gur- 
gling quite unmistakable. I heard him walking baclr 
to the door, as I cautiously stood up and again sup* 
veyed the interior of the room. 



E.eypt, as the earliest historical records show, hat 
always been a land of magic, and according to native 
belief it is to-day the theater of many super-natural 
dramas. For my own part, prior to the episode 
which T am about to relate, my personal experiences 
of the kind had been limited and unconvincing. That 
Abu Tabah possessed a sort of uncanny power akin 
to second sight T knew, but I regarded it merely as 
a form of telepathy. His presence at the prepara- 
tion of the secret perfume did not surprise me. for 
a belief in the efBcacy of magical operations pre- 
railed, as T was aware, even among the more cultured 
Moslems. My scepticism, however, was about to be 
rudely shaken. 

As T raised my head above the ledsre of the window 
and looked into the room, T perceived the Lady 
Zuleyka seated on the cushioned dtv)an, her hnnds 
resting upon an or^en roll of parchment which lay 
upon the table beside a massive brass chest of an- 
tique native workmanship. The lid of the chest was 
raised, and the interior seemed to be empty, but 



BREATH OF ALLAH 137 

near it upon the table T observed a number of gold- 
etoppered vessels of Venetian glass and each of 
which was of a different color. 

Beside a brazier wherein flowed a charcoal fire, 
Abu Tabah stood; and into the fire he oast alter- 
nately strips of paper bearing writing of some sort 
and little dark brown pastilles which he took from 
a sandalwood box set npon a sort of tripod beside 
him. They were composed of some kind of aromatic 
gum in which benzoin seemed to predominate, and 
the fumes from the brazier filled the room with a 
blue mist. 

The imam, in his soft, musical voice, was reciting 
that chapter of the Koran called '*The An^el." Tba 
weird ceremony had begun. In order to achieve my 
purDOse I perceived that I should have to draw my- 
self right up to the narrow embrasure and rest my 
weight entirely upon the ledge of the window. There 
was little danger in the maneuver, provided I made 
no noise ; for the hanging lamp, by reason of its form, 
cast no light into the upper part of the room. As T 
achieved the desired position I became painfully 
aware of the pungency of the perfume inih. which 
the apartment was filled 

Lying there upon the ledsre in a most painful atti- 
tude, I wriggled forward inch by inch further inio 
the room, until I was in a position to use my right 
arm more or less freely. The preliminary prayer 
concluded, the measuring of the perfumes had now 
actually commenced, and I readily perceived that 
without recourse to the parchment, from which the 



138 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Lady Zuleyka never once removed her hands, it 
TTOuld indeed be impossible to discover the secret. 
For, consulting the ancient prescription, she wonld 
select one of the gold-stoppered bottles, unscrew it, 
direct that so many grains should be taken froni it, 
and never removing her gaze from Mohammed er- 
Rahman whilst he measured out the correct quantity, 
would restopper the vessel and so proceed. As each 
was placed in a wide-mouthed glass jar by the per- 
fumer, Abu Tabah, extending his hands over the 
jar, pronounced the names : 

* ^ Gabrail Mikail, Israf il, Israil. * ' 

Cautiously I raised to my eyes the small but 
powerful opera-glasses to procure which I had gone 
to my rooms at Shepheard's. Focussing them upon 
the ancient scroll lying on the table beneath me, I 
discovered, to my joy, that I could read the lettering 
quite well. Whilst Abu Tabah began to recite some 
kind of incantation in the course of which the names 
of the Companions of the Prophet frequently 
occurred, I commenced to read the writing of 
Avicenna. 

**In the name of God, the Compassionate, the 
Merciful, the High, the Great. . . .'' 

So far had I proceeded and no further when I 
became aware of a curious change in the form of 
the Arabic letters. They seemed to be moving, to 
be cunningly changing places one with another as 
if to trick me out of grasping their meaning ! 

The illusion persisting, I determined that it was 
due to the unnatural strain imposed upon my vision^ 



BREATH OF ALLAH 13S 

and although I recognized that time was precious 1 
found myself compelled temporarily to desist, since 
nothing was to be gained by watching these letters 
which danced from side to side of the parchment, 
sometimes in groups and sometimes singly, so that I 
found myself pursuing one slim Arab A ( ^Alif) en- 
tirely up the page from the bottom to the top where 
it finally disappeared under the thumb of the Lady 
Zuleyka I 

Lowering the glasses I stared down in stupefac- 
tion at Abu Tabah. He had just cast fresh incense 
upon the flames, and it came home to me, with a 
childish and unreasoning sense of terror, that the 
Egyptians who called this man the Magician were 
wiser than I. For whilst I could no longer hear his 
voice, I now could see the words issuing from his 
mouth! They formed slowly and gracefully in the 
blue clouds of vapour some four feet above his head, 
revealed their meaning to me in letters of gold, and 
then faded away towards the ceiling! 

Old-established beliefs began to totter about me 
as I became aware of a number of small murmuring 
voices within the room. They were the voices of the 
perfumes burning in the brazier. Said one, in a 
guttural tone : 

* * I am Myrrh. My voice is the voice of the Tomb. ' ' 

And another softly: **I am Ambergris. I lure 
the hearts of men. ' ' 

And a third huskily: **I am Patchouli. My pro- 
mises are lies." 

My sense of smell seemed to have deserted me 



140 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

and to have been replaced by a sense of hearing. 
And now this room of magic began to expand before 
my eyes. The walls receded and receded, mitil the 
apartment grew larger than the interior of the 
Citadel Mosque; the roof shot np so high that I 
knew there was no cathedral in the world half so 
lofty. Abu Tabah, his hands extended above the 
brazier, shrank to minute dimensions, and the Lady 
Zuleyka, seated beneath me, became almost invisible. 

The project which had led me to thrust myself 
into the midst of this feast of sorcery vanished from 
my mind. I desired but one thing: to depart, ere 
reason utterly deserted me. But, to my horror, I 
discovered that my muscles were become rigid ban /Is 
of iron! The figure of Abu Tabah was dra^ving 
nearer; his slowly moving arms had grown serpen- 
tine and his eyes had changed to pools of flame 
which seemed to summon me. At the time when this 
new phenomenon added itself to the other horrors, 
I seemed to be impelled by an irresistible force to 
jerk my head downwards : I heard my neck muscles 
snap metallically: I saw a scream of agony spurt 
forth from my lips . . . and I saw upon a little 
ledge immediately below the square window a little 
mihkharah, or incense burner, which hitherto I had 
not observed. A thick, oily brown stream of vapor 
was issuing from its perforated lid and bathing my 
face clammily. Sense of smell I had none; bnt a 
chuckling, demoniacal voice spoke from the 
mibJcharah, saying — 

**I am Hashish! I drive men mad I Whilst thou 



BREATH OF ALLAH 141 

hast lain np there like a very fool, I have sent my 
vapors to thy brain and stolen thy senses from thee. 
It was for this purpose that I was set here beneath 
the window where thou couldst not fail to enjoy the 
full benefit of my poisonous perfume. . . . ' ' 

Slipping off the ledge, I f ell . . . and darkness 
closed about me. 



My awakening constitutes one of the most painful 
recollections of a not uneventful career; for, with 
aching head and tortured limbs, I sat upright upon 
the floor of a tiny, stuffy, and uncleanly cell! The 
only light was that which entered by way of a 
little grating in the door. I was a prisoner; and^ 
in the same instant that I realized the fact of my 
incarceration, I realized also that I had been duped. 
The weird happenings in the apartment of 
Mohammed er-Rahman had been hallucinations due 
to my having inhaled the fumes of some preparation 
of hashish, or Indian hemp. The characteristic 
sickly odor of the drug had been concealed by the 
pungency of the other and more odoriferous per- 
fumes; and because of the position of the censer 
containing the burning hashish, no one else in the 
room had been affected by its vapor. Could it have 
been that Abu Tabah had known of my presence 
from the first ? 

I rose, unsteadily, and looked out through the 
grating into a narrow passage. A native constable 



142 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

stood at one end of it, and beyond him I obtained 
a glimpse of the entrance hall. Instantly I recog- 
nized that I was under arrest at the Bab el-Khalk 
police station! 

A great rage consumed me. Raising my fists 1 
banged furiously upon the door, and the Egyptian 
policeman came running along the passage. 

**What does this mean, shaweshf* I demanded 
^*Why am I detained here? I am an Englishman. 
Send the superintendent to me instantly. * * 

The policeman's face expressed alternately anger, 
surprise, and stupefaction. 

**You were brought here last night, most disgust- 
ingly and speechlessly drunk, in a cart ! " he replied. 

**I demand to see the superintendent. ' ' 

** Certainly, certainly, effendim!'^ cried the man, 
now thoroughly alarmed. *^In an instant, effen- 
dim,r' 

Such is the magical power of the word ^*Inglisi'' 
(Englishman). 

A painfully perturbed and apologetic native offi- 
cial appeared almost immediately, to whom I ex- 
plained that I had been to a fancy dress ball at the 
Gezira Palace Hotel, and, injudiciously walking 
homeward at a late hour, had been attacked and 
struck senseless. He was anxiously courteous, send- 
ing a man to Shepheard's with my written instruc- 
tions to bring back a change of apparel and offering 
me every facility for removing my disguise and mak- 
ing myself presentable. The fact that he palpably 



BREATH OF ALLAH 143 

disbelieved my story did not render his concern one 
whit the less. 

I discovered the hour to be close npon noon, and, 
once more my outward self, I was about to depart 
from the Place Bab el-Kiialk, when, into the super- 
intendent's room came Abu Tabah! His handsome 
ascetic face exhibited grave concern as he saluted 
me. 

**How can I express my sorrow, Kemaby Pasha," 
he said in his soft faultless English, **that so unfor- 
tunate and unseemly an accident should have be- 
fallen you? I learned of your presence here but a 
few moments ago, and I hastened to convey to you 
an assurance of my deepest regret and sympathy.'' 

* * More than good of you, ' ' I replied. * ' I am much 
indebted. ' ' 

**It grieves me," he continued suavely, *'to learn 
that there are footpads infesting the Cairo streets, 
and that an English gentleman may not walk home 
from a ball safely. I trust that you will provide 
the police with a detailed account of any valuables 
which you may have lost. I have here" — ^thrusting 
his hand into his robe — **the only item of your prop- 
erty thus far recovered. No doubt you are somewhat 
short-sighted, Kemaby Pasha, as I am, and experi- 
ence a certain difficulty in discerning the names of 
your partners upon your dance programme." 

And with one of those sweet smiles which could 
so transfigure his face, Abu Tabah handed me my 
opera-glasses ! 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 



F]LIX BRjerON and I were the only occnpante 
of the raised platform at the end of the hall ; 
and the inartistic performance of the bulky 
dancer who occupied the stage promised to be inter- 
minable. From motives of sheer boredom I studied 
the details of her dress — a white dress, fitting like 
a vest from shoulder to hip, and having short, full 
sleeves under which was a sort of blue gauze. Her 
hair, wrists, and ankles glittered with barbaric 
jewelery and strings of little coins. 

A deafening orchestra consisting of tambourines, 
shrieking Arab viols, and the inevitable dardbuJceh, 
surrounded the performer in a half -circle ; and three 
other large- sized ghawazi mingled their shrill voices 
with the barbaric discords of the musicians. I 
yawned. 

*'As a quest of local color, Breton,'' I said, **thi8 
evening's expedition can only be voted a dismal 
failure.'' 

Felix Breton turned to me, with a smile, restiug his 
elbows upon the dirty little marble-topped table. 
He looked sufficiently like an artist to have been 
merely a painter; yet his gruesome picture **Le Eoi 
S 'Amuse" had proved the salvation of the previous 
Salon. 

144 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 145 

"Have patience/' he said; '*it is Shejeret ed- 
Durr (Tree of Pearls) that we have come to see, 
and she has not yet appeared.'' 

** Unless she appears shortly," I replied, stifling 
another yawn, **I shall disappear." 

But even as I spoke, there arose a hum of excite- 
ment throughout the crowded room; the fat dancer, 
breathless from her unpleasing exertions, resumed 
her seat ; and all the performers turned their heads 
towards a door at the side of the stage. A veiled 
figure entered, with slow, lithe step; and her ap- 
pearance was acclaimed excitedly. Coming to the 
centre of the stage, she threw off her veil with a swift 
movement, and confronted the audience, a slim, bar- 
baric figure. I glanced at Felix Breton. His eyes 
were glittering with excitement. Here at last was the 
ghaziyeh of romance, the ghaziyeh of the Egyptian 
monuments ; a true daughter of that mysterious tribe 
who, in the remote past of the Nile-land, wove 
spells of subtle moon-magic before the golden 
Pharaoh. 

A monstrous crash from the musicians opened 
the music of the dance — the famous Gazelle dance 
— which commenced to a measure of long, monoto- 
nous cadences. Shejeret ed-Durr began slowly to 
move her arms and body in that indescribable manner 
which, like the stirring of palm fronds, speaks 
the veritable language of the voluptuous Orient. 
The attendant dancers clashing their miniature 
cymbals, the measure quickened, and swift passion 
informed the languorous body, which magically be- 



146 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

came transformed into that of a leaping nymph, a 
bacchante, a living illustration of Keats' wonder- 
words : 

**Like to a moring vintage, down they came, 
Crown'd with green leaves, and faces all aflame; 
All madlj dancing through the pleasant valley, 
To scare thee, Melancholy!" 

At the conclusion of her dance, Shejeret ed-Durr, 
resuming her veil, descended to the floor of the hall 
and passed from table to table, exchanging light 
badinage with those patrons Imown to her. 

*^Do you think you could induce her to come up 
here, Kernabyf said Breton excitedly; **she is 
simply the ideal model for my *Danse Funebre.' '' 

**Any inducement other than our presence in this 
select part of the establishment,'' I replied, offering 
him a cigarette, *4s unnecessary. She will present 
herself with all reasonable despatch. ' ' 

Indeed, I had seen the dark eyes glance many 
times towards us, as we sat there in distinguished 
isolation ; and, even as I spoke, the girl was ascend- 
ing the steps, from whence she approached our table, 
smiling in friendly fashion. Breton's surprise was 
rather amusing when she confidently seated herself, 
giving an order to the cross-eyed waiter in close 
attendance^ It would be our privilege, of course, 
to pay the bilL Of its being a privilege, no one could 
doubt who had observed the envious glances cast in 
our direction by less favored patrons. 

As Breton spoke no Arabic, the task of interpreter 
devolved upon me; and I was carrying on quite 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 147 

mechanically when my attention was drawn to a 
peculiarly sinister-looking person seated alone at a 
table close beside the corner of the stage. I remem- 
bered having observed him address some remark to 
Shejeret ed-Durr, and having noted that she seemed 
to avoid him. Now, he was directing npon us a glare 
so electrically baleful that when I first detected it 
I was conscious of a sort of shock. The man wa^ 
rather oddly dressed, wearing a black turban and a 
sort of loose robe not unlike the humus of the desert 
Arabs. I concluded that he belonged to some re- 
ligious order, and that his bosom was inflamed with 
a hatred of a most murderous character towards 
myself, Felix Breton, and the dancer. 

I endeavored, without attracting the girPs notice 
to indicate to Breton the presence of the Man of the 
Glare; but the artist was so engrossed in contem- 
plation of Shejeret ed-Durr and kept me so busy in- 
terpreting, that I abandoned the attempt in despair. 
Having made his wishes evident to her, the girl 
readily consented to pose for him ; and when next I 
glanced at the table near the stage, the Man of the 
Glare had disappeared. 

What induced me to look towards the rear of the 
platform upon which we were seated I know not, 
miless I did so in obedience to a species of hypnotic 
suggestion; but something prompted me to glance 
over my shoulder. And, for the second time that 
night, I encountered the gaze of mysterious eyes. 
From a little square window these compelling eyes 
regarded me fixedly, and presently I distinguished 



148 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

the outline of a head surmonnted by a white tarban. 

The second watcher was Abu Tabah I 

"What business could have brought the mysteriona 
vmdm to such a place was a problem beyond my 
powers of conjecture, but that he was silently direct- 
ing me to depart with all speed I presently made out 
Having signified, by a gesture, that I had grasped 
the purport of his message, I turned again to Breton, 
who was struggling to carry on a conversation with 
Shejeret ed-Durr in his native French. 

I experienced some difficulty in inducing him U 
leave, but my arguments finally prevailed, and we 
passed out into the dimly lighted street. About 
ns in the darkness pipes w^ailed, and there was the 
dim throbbing of the eternal darabuheh. We were 
in that part of El-Wasr adjoining the notorious 
Square of the Fountain. Discordant woman voices 
filled the night, and strange figures flitted from the 
shadows into the light streaming from the open 
doorways. It was the centre of secret Cairo, the 
midnight city; and three paces from the door of 
the dance hall, a slim, black-robed figure suddenly 
appeared at my elbow, and the musical voice of 
Abu Tabah spoke close to my ear : 

'*Be on the terrace of Shepheard^s in half an 
hour.*' 

The mysterious figure melted again into the 
shadows about us. 

n 

On the deserted hotel balcony, Abu Tabah awaited 
me. 



THE WHISPERING MUMl^r? 149 

"It was indeed fortunate, Kemaby Pasha," be 
said, **that I observed you this evening." 

"I am greatly obliged to you," I replied, **for 
watching over me with such paternal solicitude. 
May I inquire what danger I have incurred!" 

I was angrily conscious of feeling like a school- 
boy suffering reproof. 

"A very great danger," Abi Tabah assured me, 
his gentle, musical voice expressing real concern. 
** Ahmad es-Kebir is the lover of the dancer called 
Shejeret ed-Durr, alhtough she who is of the ghawdzi, 
of Keneh does not return his affections." 

** Ahmad es-Kebir? — do you refer to a malignant 
looking person in a black turban?" I inquired 

Abu Tabah gravely inclined his head. 

"He is one of the Rifa^iyeh, the Black Darimshes, 
They practise strange rites and are by some ac- 
credited with supernatural powers. For you the 
danger is not so great as for your friend, who seemed 
to be speaking words of love to the ghaziyeh/' 

I laughed shortly. 

"You are mistaken, Abu Tabah," I replied; "hifi 
interest was not of the character which you suppose. 
He is an artist and merely desired the girl to pose 
for him." 

Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders. 

"She is an unveiled woman," he said contemp- 
tuously, "but love in the heart of such a one as 
Ahmad is a terrible passion, consuming the vitals 
and rendering whom it afflicts either a partaker of 
Paradise or as one of the evil ginn.** 



150 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

**Iii the particular case under consideration," I 
said, * * it would seem distinctly to have produced the 
latter and less agreeable symptoms.'' 

**Let your friend step warily,'* advised Abu 
Tabah; **for some who have aroused the enmity of 
the Black Darwishes have met with strange ends, 
nor has it been possible to fix responsibility upon 
any member of the order.*' 

**You think my poor friend, Felix Breton, may 
be discovered some morning in an unpleasantly 
messy condition?" 

**The Black Barunshes do not employ the knife,'* 
answered Abu Tabah; *'they employ strange and 
more subtle weapons." 

I stared hard at him in the darkness. I thought 
I knew my Cairo, but this sounded unpleasantly 
mysterious. However — 

**I am indebted to you, Abu Tabah," I said, **for 
your timely warning. As you know, I always per- 
sonally avoid any possibility of misunderstanding 
in regard to my relations with Egyptian women- 
folk." 

*'With some rare exceptions," agreed Abu Tabah, 
'* particulars of which escape my memory at the 
moment, you have always been a model of discretion, 
Kernaby Pasha. ' * 

**I will warn my friend," I said hastily, **of the 
view of his conduct mistakenly taken by the gentle- 
man in the black turban." 

**It is well," replied Abu Tabah; *^we shall meet 
again ere long." 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 151 

With that and the customary dignified salutations 
he departed, leaving me wondering what hidden 
significance lay in his words, **we shall meet again 
ere long." 

Experience had taught me that Abu Tabah's warn- 
ings were not to be lightly dismissed, and I knew 
enough of the fanaticism of those strange Eastern 
sects whereof the Eifa'iyeh, or Black DarivtsJies, 
was one, to realize that it would prove an unhealthy 
amusement to interfere with their domestic affairs. 
Felix Breton, who possessed the rare gift of captur- 
ing and transferring to canvas the atmosphere of the 
East with the opulent colorings and vivid contrasts 
which constitute its charm, had nevertheless but little 
practical experience of the manners and customs ot 
the golden Orient. He had leased a large studio 
situated on the roof of a fine old Cairene palace 
hidden away behind the Street of the Booksellers 
and almost in the shadow of the Mosque of el-Azhar. 
His romantic spirit had prompted him after a time 
to give up his rooms at the Continental and to take 
up his abode in the apartment adjoining the studio ; 
that is to say, completely to cut himself off from 
European life and to become an inhabitant of the 
Oriental city. With his imperfect knowledge of the 
practical side of native life in the East, I did not 
envy him ; but I was fully alive to his danger, isolated 
as he was from the European community, indeed 
from modernity ; for out of the boulevards of modem 
Cairo into the streets of the Arabian Nights is but 
t step, yet a i^p that bridges the gulf of centuries. 



152 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

As I entered his studio on the f olowing morning, 
I discovered him at work upon the extraordinarj 
picture **Danse Funebre.'' Shejeret ed-Durr was 
posing in the dress of an ancient priestess of Isis. 
Breton briefly greeted me, waving his hand towards 
a cushioned diwan before which stood a little coffee- 
table bearing decanters, siphons, cigarettes, and 
other companionable paraphernalia. Making myself 
comfortable, I studied the picture and the modeL 

**Danse Funebre" was an extraordinary concep- 
tion, representing an elaborately furnished modem 
room, apparently that of an antiquary or Egyptolo- 
gist; for a multitude of queer relics decorated the 
walls, cabinets, and the large table at which a man 
was seated. Boldly represented immediately to thft 
left of his chair stood a mummy in an ornate sarco- 
phagus, and forth from the swathed figure into the 
light cast downwards from an antique lamp, floated 
a beautiful spirit shape — ^that of an Egyptian 
priestess. Upon her face was an expression of in- 
tense anger, as, her fingers crooked in sinister 
fashion, she bent over the man at the table. 

The mummy and sarcophagus depicted on the 
canvas stood before me against the wall of the 
studio, the lid resting beside the case. It was 
moulded, as is sometimes seen, to represent the face 
and figure of the occupant and was as fine an example 
of the kind as I had met with. The mummy was that 
of a priestess and dancer of the Great Temple at 
PhilsB, and it had been lent by the museum authoritks 
for the purpose of Breton's picture. 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 153 

His enthusiasm at first seeing Shejeret ed-Durr 
was explainable by the really uncanny resemblance 
which the girl bore to the modeled figure. Studying 
her, from my seat on the dtwcm, as she posed in that 
gauzy raiment depicted upon the lid of the sarco- 
phagus, it seemed indeed that the ancient priestess 
was reborn in the form of Shejeret ed-Durr the 
ghaeiyeh. Breton had evidently tabooed make-up, 
with the exception of the characteristic black border- 
ing to the eyes (which appeared in the presentment 
of the servant of Isis) ; and seen now in its natural 
•oloring the face of the dancing-girl had undoubted 
beauty. 

Presently, whilst the model rested, I informed 
Breton of my conversation with Abu Tabah; but, 
as I had anticipated, he was sceptical to the point 
of derision. 

**My dear Kernaby," he said, *4s it likely that 
I am going to interrupt my work now that I have 
found such an inspiring model, because some ridicu- 
lous darwish disapproves?*' 

**It is highly unlikely," I admitted; '^but do not 
make the mistake of treating the matter lightly. You 
are right off the map here, and Cairo is not Paris." 

**It is a great deal safer!" he cried in his bois- 
terous fashion, * * and infinitely more interesting. ' ' 

But my mind was far from easy; for in the dark 
eyes of the model, when their glance rested upcai 
Felix Breton, there was that to have aroused 
poisonous sentiments in the bosom of the Man of 
the Glare. 



154 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

m 

During the course of the following month I saw 
Felix Breton two or three times, and he was enthu- 
siastic about the progress of his picture and the 
beauty of his model. The first hint that I received 
of the strange idea which was to lead to stranger 
happenings came one afternoon when he had called 
upon me at Shepheard's. 

**Do you believe in reincarnation, KemabyT' ha 
asked suddenly. 

I stared at him in surprise. 

*^ Regardless of my personal views on the matter,'' 
I replied, *4n what way does the subject interest 
you?" 

Momentarily he hesitated; then — 

*^The resemblance between Yasmina" (this was 
the real name of Shejeret ed-Durr) ^^and the 
priestess of Isis," he said, ** appears to me too 
marked to be explainable by mere coincidence. If 
the mummy were my personal property I should 
unwrap it " 

**Do you seriously desire me to believe that you 
regard Yasmina as a reincarnation of the elder 
lady?'' 

* ^ That or a lineal descendant, ' ' he answered. ^ ^ The 
tribe of the Ghawdzi is of unknown antiquity and 
may very well be descended from those temple 
dancers of the days of the Pharaohs. If you have 
studied the ancient wall paintings, you cannot have 
failed to observe that the dancing girls represented 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 155 

have entirely different forms from those of any 
other women depicted and from those of the ordinary 
Egyptian women of to-day.'* 

His enthusiasm was tremendous; he was one of 
those uncomfortable fanatics who will ride a theory 
to the death. 

**I cannot say that I have noticed it/' I replied. 
'*Your knowledge of the female form divine is doubt- 
less more extensive than mine." 

**My dear Kernaby," he cried excitedly, **to the 
trained eye the difference is extraordinary. Until 
I saw Yasmina I had believed the peculiar form to 
which I refer to be extinct like the blue enamel and 
the sacred lotus. If it is not reincarnation it is 
heredity." 

I could not help thinking that it more closely re- 
sembled insanity than either; but since Breton had 
made no reference to the wearer of the black turban, 
I experienced less anxiety respecting his physical 
than his mental welfare. 

Three days later there was a dramatic develop- 
ment. Drifting idly into Breton's studio one morn- 
ing I found him pacing the place in despair and glar- 
ing at his unfinished canvas like a man distraught. 

** Where is Shejeret ed-Durr?" I inquired. 

'*Gone!" he replied. **She disappeared yester- 
day and ^ can find no trace of her." 

* * Surely the excellent Suleyman, proprietor of the 
dancing establishment, can assist you?" 

**I tell you," cried Breton savagely, *Hhat she has 
disappeared. No one knows what has become of her. ' ' 



156 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

I looked at him in dismay. He presented a mourn- 
ful spectacle. He was unshaven and his dark hair 
was wildly disordered. His despair was more acute 
than I should have supposed possible in the circum^ 
stances ; and I concluded that his interest in Yasmina 
was deeper than I had assumed or that I was 
incapable of comprehending the artistic tempera- 
ment. I suppose the Gallic blood in him had some- 
thing to do with it, but I was unspeakably distressed 
to observe that the man was on the verge of tears. 

Consolation was impossible, and I left him pacing 
his empty studio distractedly. That night at an 
unearthly hour, long after I had retired to my own 
apartments, he came to Shepheard's. Being shown 
into my room, and the servant having departed — 

''Yasmina is dead!'' he burst out, standing there, 
a disheveled figure, just within the doorway. 

*'What!'' I exclaimed, standing up from the table 
at which I had been writing and confronting him. 
* ' Dead ? Do you mean ' ' 

*'He has murdered her!'* said Breton, in a dull 
monotonous voice — ' ' that fiend of whom you warned 
me.'' 

I was appalled ; for I had been utterly unprepared 
for such a tragedy. 

' * Who discovered her ? ' * 

**No one discovered her; she will never be dis- 
covered! He has buried her body in some secret 
spot in the desert." 

My amazement grew with every word that he 
uttered, and presently — 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 157 

"Then how in Heaven's name did you learn of 
her murder?'' I asked. 

Felix Breton, who had hegun to pace up and down 
the room, a truly pitiable figure, paused and looked 
at me wildly. 

**You will think that I am mad, Kemaby," he 
said; **but I must tell you — I must tell someone. 
I could see that you were incredulous when I spoke 
to you of reincarnation, but I was right, Kernaby, 
I was right I Either that or my reason is deserting 
me.'* 

My opinion inclined distinctly in the direction of 
the latter theory, but I remained silent, watching 
Breton's haggard face. 

** To-night," he continued, ^*as I sat looking at 
my unfinished picture and trying to imagine what 
oould have become of Yasmina, the mummy — the 
mummy of the priestess — spohe to me!" 

I slowly sank back into my chair. I was now 
assured that Felix Breton had formed a sudden and 
intense infatuation for Yasmina and that her mys- 
terious disappearance had deranged his sensitive 
mind. Words failed me; I could think of nothing 
to say ; and bending towards me his haggard face — 

**It whispered to me," he said, *4n her voice — ^in 
my own language, French, as I have taught it to her ; 
just a few imperfect words, but sufficient to convey 
to me the story of the tragedy. Kernaby, what does 
it mean! Is it possible that her spirit, released 
from the body of Yasmina, has returned to that 
.wbioh I firmly believe it formerly inhabited? . . .*' 



158 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT 

I had had the misfortune to be a party to some dis- 
tressing scenes, but few had affected me so unpleas- 
antly as this. That poor Felix Breton was raving 
I could not doubt, but having persuaded him to 
spend the night at Shepheard's and having seen him 
safely to bed, I returned to my o^^n room to en- 
deavor to work out the problem of what steps I 
should take regarding him on the morrow. 

In the morning, however, he seemed more com- 
posed, having shaved and generally rendered him- 
self more presentable ; but the wild look still lingered 
in his eyes and I could see that the strange obsession 
had secured a firm hold upon him. He discussed 
the matter quite calmly during breakfast, and invited 
met to visit the scene of this supernatural happening. 
I assented, and hailing arahiyeh we drove together 
to the studio. 

There was nothing abnormal in the appearance 
of the place, but I examined the mummy and the 
mummy case with a new curiosity; for if Felix 
Breton was not mad (and this was a point upon 
which I recognized my incompetence to decide) the 
phantom voice was clearly the product of some trick. 
However, I was unable to discover anything to ac- 
count for it. The sarcophagus stood against the 
outer wall of the studio and near to a large lattice 
window before which was draped a heavy tapestry 
curtain for the purpose of excluding undesirable 
light upon that side of the modePs throne. There 
was no balcony outside the window, which was fully, 
thirty feet from the street below; therefore unless 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 159 

someone had been hiding in the window recess be- 
side the sarcophagus, trickery appeared to be out of 
the question. Turning to Breton, who was watching 
me haggardly — 

**You searched the recess last night?" I said. 

**I did — immediately. There was no one there. 
There was no one anywhere in the studio ; and when 
I looked out of the open window, the street below 
was deserted from end to end.'' 

Naturally, I took it for granted that he would 
avoid the place, at any rate by night ; and I said as 
much, as we passed along the Musld together. I 
can never forget the wildness in his eyes as he 
turned to me. 

**I must go back, Kemaby," he said. **It seems 
like desertion, base and cowardly." 



IV 



Breton did not join me at dinner that evening as 
we had arranged that he should do, and towards the 
?iour of ten o'clock, growing more and more uneasy 
on his behalf, I set out for the studio, half hoping 
that I should meet him. I saw nothing of him, how- 
ever, as I crossed the Ezbekiyeh Gardens and the 
Atabet el-Khadra into the Muski. From thence on- 
ward to the Eondpoint the dark and narrow streets 
were almost deserted, and from the corner of the 
Sharia el-Khordagiya to the Street of the Book- 
binders I met with no living thing save a lean and 
furtive cat. 



160 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

My footsteps echoed hollowly from wall to wall 
of the overhanging buildings, as I approached the 
door giving acess to the courtyard from which 9 
stair communicated with the studio above. The 
moonlight, slanting down into the ancient place, 
left more than half of it in densest shadow, but just 
touched the railing of the balcony and the lower 
part of the mushrabiyeh screen masking what onoe 
iad been the harem apartments from the view of one 
entering the courtyard. Far above me, through an 
open lattice, a dim light shone out, though vaguely. 
This part of the house was bathed in the radiance 
of the moon, which dimmed that of the studio lamp ; 
for the open window was the window of Breton '8 
studio. 

The door at the foot of the stairs was partly open- 
and I ascended slowly, since the place was quite dark 
and I was forced to feel my way around the eccentric 
turnings introduced by an Arab architect to whom 
simplicity had evidently been an abomination. 

A modem door had been fitted to the studio ; and 
although this door was also unfastened, I rapped 
loudly, but, receiving no answer, entered the studio. 
It was empty. The lamp was lighted, as I had ob- 
served from below, and a faint aroma of Turkish 
tobacco smoke hung in the air. Clearly, Breton had 
left but a few moments earlier; and I judged it 
probable that he would be returning very shortly, 
for had he set out for Shepheard's he would not 
have left his door unlocked, and in any event I 
should have met him on the way. Therefore, having? 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY ICl 

glanced into the inner room, which, latterly, Breton 
had been using as a bedroom, I sat down on the dtwcm 
and prepared to await his return. 

The lamp whose light I had seen shining through 
the window was that which hung before the model's 
throne, and the curtain which usually draped the 
window recess had been partially pulled aside, so 
that from where I sat I could see part of the centre 
lattice, which was open. My mind at this time was 
entirely occupied with uneasy speculations regard- 
ing Breton, and although I had glanced more than 
once at the large unfinished picture on the easel, 
from which the face of Shejeret ed-Durr peered out 
across the shoulder of the seated man, and several 
times had looked at the mummy set upright in its 
painted sarcophagus, no sense of the uncanny had 
touched me or in any way prepared me for the amaz- 
ing manifestation which I was about to witness. 

How long I had sat there I cannot say exactly; 
possibly for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour: 
when, suddenly, an eerie whisper crept through the 
stillness of the big room I 

Since I had more than once been temporarily 
tricked into belief in the supernatural, by means of 
oertain ingenious devices, I did not readily fall a 
victim to the mysterious nature of the present oc- 
currence. Yet I must confess that my heart gave a 
great leap and I was forced to exert all my will to 
control my nerves. I sat quite still, listening intently 
for a repetition of that evil whisper. Then, in tbo 
stillness, it came again. 



162 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

''Felix,'* it breathed, *' because of you I lie dead in 
a grave in the desert. ... I died for you, Felix, 
and now I am so lonely. . . .*' 

The whispering voice offered no clue to the age or 
the sex of the speaker; for a true whisper is toneless. 
But the words, as Breton had declared, were uttered 
in broken French and spoken with a curious accent. 

It ceased, that ghostly whispering; and I realized 
that my nerves could stand no more of it; for that 
it came or seemed to come from the mummy of the 
priestess was a fact as undeniable as it was horrible. 

Resorting to action, I sprang up and leaped across 
the room, grasping first at the curtain draped in 
the window on the right of the sarcophagus. I jerked 
it fully aside. The recess was empty. All three 
lattices were open, on the right, left, and in the 
centre of the window; but, craning out from the 
latter, I saw the street below to be vacant from end 
to end. 

Stepping back into the room, and metaphorically 
clutching my courage with both hands, I approached 
the sarcophagus, peered behind it, all around it, and, 
finally, into the swathed face of the mummy itself. 
Nothing rewarded my search. But the studio of 
Felix Breton seemed to have become icily cold; at 
any rate I found myself to be shivering; and walk- 
ing deliberately, although it cost me a monstrous 
effort to do so, I descended the dark winding stair- 
way into the courtyard, and, on regaining the street, 
discovered to my intense annoyance that my brow 
was wet ^^ith cold perspiration. 



THE WHISPERING MUl^J^lY 163 

I had taken no more than ten paces in the direction 
of the Suk es-Siidan when I heard the sound of 
approaching footsteps, and for some reason (I can 
only suppose as a result of my highly strung con- 
dition) I stepped into the shelter of a narrow gate- 
way, where I could see without being seen, and there 
awaited the appearance of the one who approached. 

It was Felix Breton, his face showing ghastly in 
the moonlight as he turned the corner. I could not 
be certain if a mere echo had deceived me, but I 
thought I could detect faintly the softer footfalls 
of someone who was following him. From my cover 
I had an uninterrupted view of the entrance to the 
house which I had just left; and without showing 
myself I watched Breton approach the door. At its 
threshold he seemed to hesitate; and in that brief 
hesitancy were illustrated the conflicting emotions 
driving the man. I recalled the words he had spoken 
to me that morning. * * I must go back, Kemaby ; it 
seems like desertion, base and cowardly.'' He 
opened the door and disappeared. 

As he did so, a second figure crossed from the 
shadows on the opposite side of the street — that is, 
the side upon which I was concealed; and in turn 
advanced towards the door. As he passed my hid- 
ing-place I acted. Without an instant's hesitation 
I hurled myself upon him. 

How he avoided that furious attack — if he did 
avoid it — or whether in the darkness I miscalculated 
my spring, I do not know to this day: I only know 
that I missed my objective, stumbled, recovered my- 



164 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

«elf . . . and turned with clenched fists to find Ah6 
Tabdh confronting me ! 

**Kernaby Pasha!'* he cried. 

**Abu Tabah!'* said I dazedly. 

**I perceive that I am not alone in my anxiety 
for the welfare of M. Felix Breton.'' 

**But why were you following him! I narrowly 
missed assaulting you." 

** Very narrowly," he agreed in his gentle manner; 
**but you ask me why I was following M. Breton. 
I was following him because I have seen so many 
of those who have crossed the path of the Black 
DarwisJies meet with violent and inexplicable 
deaths. ' ' 

*^ Murder?" I whispered. 

**Not murder — suicide. Therefore, observing, aa 
I had anticipated, a strangeness in your friend's 
behavior, I have watched him. ' ' 

**The strangeness of his behavior is easily ac- 
counted for," I said. And excitedly, for the horror 
of the episode in the studio was ytill strongly upon 
me, I told him of the whispering mummy. 

** These are very dreadful things of which you 
speak, Kernaby Pasha," he admitted, **but I warned 
you that it was ill to incur the enmity of the Black 
Darwtshes. That there is a scheme afoot to com- 
pass the self-destruction or insanity of your friend 
is now evident to me ; and he has brought this calami- 
ty upon himself ; for the words which he believed to 
be spoken by the spirit of the girl Yasmina would not 
have affected him so unpleasantly if his attitude 



THE WHISPEBING MUMMY 165 

towards her had been marked by proper restraint 
and the affair confined within suitable limitations.'' 

* * Quite so. But although the Black Darwtshes 
may be both malignant and clever, that uncanny 
whispering is beyond the control of natural forces." 

**Such is not my opinion/' replied Abu Tabah. 
'*A spirit does not mistake one person for another; 
and the whispering voice addressed itself to * Felix' 
when Felix was not present. I believe, Kemaby 
Pasha, that you are the possessor of a pair of ex- 
cellent opera-glasses ? May I suggest that you return 
to Shepheard's and procure them." 



The platform of the minaret seemed very cold to 
the touch of my stockinged feet; for I had left my 
shoes at the entrance to the mosque below in ac- 
cordance with custom; and now, from the wooden 
balcony, I overlooked the neighboring roofs of Cairo, 
and Abu Tabah, beside me, pointed to where a vague 
patch of light broke the darkness beneath us to the 
left. 

**The window of M. Felix Breton's studio," he 
said. 

Raising the glasses to his eyes, he gazed in that 
direction, whilst I also peered thither and succeeded 
in making out the well of the courtyard and the 
roofs of the buildings to right and left of it. It was 
not evident to me for what Abu Tabah was looking, 
and when presently he lowered the glasses and turned 
to me I expressed my doubts in words. 



166 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

**It is surely evident/' I said, speaking, as I now 
almost invariably did to the imam, in English, of 
which he had a perfect mastery, **that we have little 
chance of discovering anything from here, since 
nothing was visible from the studio window. 
Furthermore, who save Yasmina could have spoken 
in the manner which I have related and in broken 
French r' 

**An eavesdropper,'' he replied, ** might have 
profited by the lessons which Yasmina received from 
M. Breton; and all vocal characteristics are lost in 
a whisper. In the second place, Yasmina is not 
dead.'' 

*^What!"Icried. 

Although, when Breton had informed me of her 
death, I myself had doubted him, for some reason 
the ghostly whisper had convinced me as it had con- 
vinced him. 

**She has been kept a prisoner during the past 
week in a house belonging to one of the Black 
Darwishes/' continued Abu Tabah; **but my agents 
succeeded in tracing her this morning. By my 
orders, however, she has not been allowed to return 
to her home." 

^*And what was the object of those orders?" 

*^That I might learn for what purpose she had 
been made to disappear," replied Abu Tabah; **and 
I have learned it to-night." 

**Then you think that the whispering mum- 
my " 

He suddenly clutched my arm. 



THE WHISPERING MUMMY 167 

*' Quick! raise your glasses!'' he said softly. '*0n 
the roof of the house to the left of the light. There 
is the whispering mummy!'' 

Strung up to a high pitch of excitement, I gazed 
through the glasses in the direction indicated by 
my companion. Without difficulty I discerned him 
! — a man wearing a black turban — ^who crept like 
some ungainly cat along the flat roof, carrying in 
his hand what looked like one of those sugar canes 
which pass for a delicacy among the natives, but 
which to European eyes appear more suitable for 
curtain-poles than sweetmeats. Springing perilously 
across a yawning gulf, the wearer of the black turban 
gained the roof of the studio, crept along for some 
little distance further, and then, lying prone, began 
slowly to lower the bamboo rod in the direction of 
the lighted window. 

I found that unconsciously I had suspended my 
respiration, and now, breathlessly, as the truth came 
home to me — 

**It is a speaking-tube!" I cried, '*I cannot see 
the end of it, but no doubt it is curved so as to 
protrude through the side of the lattice window. Do 
you look ,Abu Tabah: I propose to act." 

Thrusting the glasses into the imam's hand, I 
took my Colt repeater from my pocket, and, having 
peered for some seconds steadily in the direction 
of the dimly visible Darwish, I opened fire ! I had 
fired five shots in the heat of my anger at that 
sinister crouching figure, ere Abu Tabah seized my 
wrist 



168 TALES OF SECEJET EGYPT 

**Stop!'' he cried; **do you forget where 70H 
stand r' 

Truly I had forgotten in my indignation, or I 
should not have outraged his feelings by firing from 
the minaret of a mosque. But sufficient of my wrath 
remained to occasion me a thrill of satisfaction, 
when, peering through the dusk, I saw the Darivish 
throw up his arms and disappear from view. 



*' There is blood in the courtyard," said Ab4 
Tabah; **but Ahmad es-Kebir has fled. Therefore 
he still lives, and his anger will be not the less but 
the greater. Depart from Cairo, M. Breton: it is 
my counsel to you.'* 

**But,'' cried Felix Breton, glaring wildly at the 
big canvas on the easel, *^I must finish my picture. 
As Yasmina is alive, she must return, and I must 
finish my picture!'* 

^* Yasmina cannot return," replied Abu Tabah, 
fiixing his weird eyes upon the speaker. **I have 
caused her to be banished from Cairo." He raised 
his hand, checking Breton's hot words ere they were 
uttered, '* Recriminations are unavailing. Her 
presence disturbs the peace of the city, and the peeuse 
of the city it is my duty to maintain," 



PABTH 

OTHER TALES 

I 

LOED OF THE JACKALS 

IN those days, of course (said the French agent, 
looking out across the sea of Yiissuf Effendis 
which billowed up against the balcony to where, 
in the moonlight, the minarets of Cairo pointed the 
way to God), I did not occupy the position which 
I occupy to-day. No, I was younger, and more ambi- 
tious; I thought to carve in the annals of Egypt 
A name for myself such as that of De Lesseps. 

I had a scheme — and there were those who be- 
Keved in it — for extending the borders of Egypt. 
Ah ! my friends, Egypt after all is but a double belt 
of mud following the Nile, and terminated east and 
west by the desert. The desert ! It was the dream 
of my life to exterminate that desert, that hungry 
gray desert ; it was my plan — a foolish plan as J know 
now — to link the fertile Fayum to the Oases I How 
was this to be done f Ah I 

Why should I dig up those buried skeletons? It 
was not done; it never could be done; therefore, 
let me not bore you with how I had proposed to do 
it Suffice it that my ambitions took me far off the 
beaten tracks, far, even, from the caravan roads — 
far into the gray heart of the desert 

169 



170 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

But I was ambitious, and only nineteen — or scarce- 
ly twenty. At nineteen, a man who comes from St, 
Remy fears no obstacle which Fate can place in his 
way, and looks upon the world as a grape-fruit to b^ 
<3weetened with endeavor and sucked empty. 

It was in those days, then, that I learned as you? 
Budyard Kipling has also learned that **East is 
East"; it was in those days that I came face to face 
with that ** mystery of Egypt'* about which so muck 
is written, has always been written, and always will 
be written, but concerning which so few people, so 
very few people, know anything whatever. 

Yes, I, Rene de Flassans, saw with my own eyek 
a thing that I knew to be magic, a thing whereat my 
reason rebelled — a thing which my poor European 
intelligence could not grapple, could not begin to 
explain. 

It was this which you asked me to tell you, was it 
not? I will do so with pleasure, because I know that 
I speak to men of honor, and because it is good 
for me, now that I cannot count the gray hairs in my 
beard, to confess how poor a thing I was when I 
could count every hair upon my chin — and how grand 
a thing I thought myself. 

One evening, at the end of a dreadful day in the 
saddle — beneath a sky which seemed to reflect all 
the fires of hell, a day passed upon sands simply 
smoking in that merciless sun — ^I and my native com- 
panions came to an encampment of Arabs. 

They were Bedouins* — the tribe does not matter 

* This incorrect but familiar spelling is retained throughout. 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 171 

at the moment — and, as you may know, the Bedouin 
is the most hospitable creature whom God has yet 
created. The tent of the Sheikh is open to any 
traveller who cares to rest his weary limbs therein. 
Freely he may partake of all that the tribe has to 
offer, food and drink and entertainment ; and to seek 
to press payment upon the host would be to insult a 
gentleman. 

That is desert hospitality. A spear that stands 
thrust upright in the sand before the tent door signi- 
fies that whosoever would raise his hand against 
^e guest has first to reckon with the Sheikh. 
Equally it would be an insult to erect one's own 
tent in the neighborhood of a Bedouin encampment. 

Well, my friends, I knew this well, for I was no 
stranger to the nomadic life, and accordingly, with- 
out fear of the fierce-eyed throng who came forth 
to meet us, I made my respects to the Sheikh Said 
Mohammed, and was reckoned by him as a friend 
and a brother. His tent was placed at my disposal 
iind provisions were made for the suitable entertain- 
ioaent of those who were with me. 

You know how dusk falls in Egypt? At one 
moment the sky is a brilliant canvas, glorious with 
every color known to art, at the next the curtain — 
the wonderful veil of deepest violet — ^has fallen; the 
stars break through it like diamonds through the 
finest gauze; it is night, velvet, violet night. You 
fiee it here in this noisy modem Cairo. In the lonely 
desert it is ten thousand times grander, ten thousand 
Cimes more impressive ; it speaks to the soul with the 



172 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

voice of the silence. Ah, those desert nights! 

So was the night of which I speak; and having 
partaken of the fare which the Sheikh caused to be 
set before me — and Bedouin fare is not for thff 
squeamish stomach — I sipped that deKcious coffee 
which, though an acquired taste, is the true nectar, 
and looked out beyond the four or ^ve palm trees 
of this little oasis to where the gray carpet of the 
desert grew black as ebony and met the violet sweep 
of the sky. 

Perhaps I was the first to see him; I cannot say; 
but certainly he was not perceived by the Bedouins, 
although one stood on guard at the entrance to 
the camp. 

How can I describe him? At the time, as he 
approached in the moonlight with a shambling, stoop 
ing gait, I felt that I had never seen his like before. 
Now I know the reason of my wonder, and the reason 
of my doubt. I know what it was about him which 
inspired a kind of horror and a revulsion — a dread. 

Elfin locks he had, gray and matted, falling about 
his angular face, shading his strange, yellow eyes. 
His was dressed in rags, in tatters ; he was furtive, 
and he staggered as one who is very weak, slowly 
approaching out of the vastness. 

Then it appeared as though every dog in the camp 
knew of his coming. Out from the shadows of the 
tents they poured, those yapping mongrels. Never 
have I seen such a thing. In the midst of the yellow- 
ish, snarling things, at the very entrance to the camp^ 
the wretched old man fell, uttering a low cry. 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 173 

But now, snatching up a heavy club which lay 
close to my hand, I rushed out of the tent. Others 
were thronging out too, but, first of them all, I burst 
in among the dogs, striking, kicking, and shouting. 
I stooped and raised the head of the stranger. 

Mutely he thanked me, with half-closed eyes. A 
choking sound issued from his throat, and he clutched 
with his hands and pointed to his mouth. 

An earthenware jar, containing cool water, stood 
beside a tent but a few yards away. Hurling my 
club at the most furious of the dogs, which, with 
bared fangs, still threatened to attack the recumbent 
man, I ran and seized the dor ok y regained his side, 
and poured water between his parched lips. 

The throng about me was strangely silent, until, 
as tue poor old man staggered again to his feet, sup- 
ported by my arm, a chorus arose about me — one 
long, vowelled word, wholly unfamiliar, although 
my Arabic was good. But I noted that all kept a 
respectful distance from myself and the man whom 
I had succored. 

Then, pressing his way through the throng came 
the Sheikh Said Mohammed. Saluting the ragged 
stranger with a sort of grim respect, he asked him 
if he desired entertainment for the night. 

The other shook his head, mumbling, pointed to 
the water jar, and by dint of gnashing his yellow 
and pointed teeth, intimated that he required food. 

Food was brought to him hurriedly. He tied it 
up in a dirty cloth, grasped the water jar, and, with 
never a glance at the Arabs, turned to me. With 



174 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

his hand he touched his brow, his lips, and his breast 
in salute; then, although tottering with weakness, 
he made off again with that queer, loping gait. 

The camp dogs began to howl, and a strange silence 
fell upon the Arabs about me. All stood watching 
the departing figure until it was lost in a dip of the 
desert, when the watchers began to return again to 
their tents. 

Sa'id Mohammed took my hand, and in a few 
direct and impressive words thanked me for having 
spared him and his tribe from a grave dishonor. 
Need I say that I was flattered? Had you met him, 
my friends, that fine Bedouin gentleman, polished 
as any noble of old France, fearless as a lion, yet 
gentle as a woman, you would know that I rejoiced 
in being able to serve him even so slightly. 

Two of the dogs, unperceived by us, had followed 
the weird old man from the camp; for suddenly in 
the distance I heard their savage growls. Then, 
these growls were drowned in such a chorus of howl- 
ing — the howling of jackals — as I had never before 
heard in all my desert wanderings. The howling 
suddenly subsided . . . but the dogs did not return. 

I glanced around, meaning to address the Sheikh, 
but the Sheikh was gone. 

Filled with wonder, then, respecting this singular 
incident, I entered the tent — it was at the farther 
end of the camp — which had been placed at my dis- 
posal, and lay down, rather to reflect than to sleep. 
With my mind confused in thoughts of yellow-eyed 
wanderers, of dogs, and of jackals, sleep came. 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 175 

How long I slept I cannot say ; but I was awakened 
as the cool fingers of dawn were touching the crests 
of the sand billows. A gray and dismal light filled 
the tent, and something was scratching at the flap. 

I sat up immediately, quite wide awake, and taking 
my revolver, ran to the entrance and looked out. 

A slinking shape melted into the shadows of the 
tent adjoining mine, and I concluded that a camp 
dog had aroused me. Then, in the early morning 
silence, I heard a faint call, and peering through the 
gloom to the east saw, in black silhouette, a solitary 
figure standing near the extremity of the camp. 

In those days, my friends, I was a brave fellow — ■ 
we are all brave at nineteen — and throwing a cloak 
over my shoulders I strode intrepidly towards this 
figure. I was within ten paces when a hand was 
raised to beckon me. 

It was the mysterious stranger! Again he 
beckoned to me, and I approached yet nearer, asking 
him if it was he who had aroused me. 

He nodded, and by means of a grotesque kind of 
pantomine ultimately made me understand that he 
had caused me to be aroused in order to communicate 
something to me. He turned, and indicated that we 
were to walk away from the camp. I accompanied 
him without hesitation. 

Although the camp was never left unguarded, no 
one had challenged us ; and, a hundred yards beyond 
the outermost tent, this strange old man stopped 
and turned to me. 

First, he pointed back to the camp, then to myself, 



176 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

then out along the caravan road towards the Nile. 

**Do you mean^** I asked him — for I perceived 
that he was dumb or vowed to silence — **that I am 
to leave the camp?'' 

He nodded rapidly, his strange yellow eyes gleam- 
ing. 

** Immediately!" I demanded. 

Again he nodded, 

**Whyf" 

Pantomimioally he made me understand that death 
threatened me if I remained — that I must leave the 
Bedouins before sunrise. 

I cannot convey to you any idea of the mad eamest- 
hess of the man. But, alas ! youth regards the coun- 
sels of age with nothing but contempt; moreover, I 
thought this man mad, and I was unable to choke 
down a sort of loathing which he inspired in me. 

I shook my head then, but not unkindly; and, 
waving my hand, prepared to leave him. At that, 
with a sorrow in his strange eyes which did not fail 
to impress me, he saluted me with gravity, turned, 
and passed out of sight. 

Although I did not know it at the time, I had chosen 
of two paths the one that led through fire. 

I slept little after this interview — if it was a real 
interview and not a dream — and feeling tired and 
imrefreshed, I saw the sun rise purple and angry 
over the distant hills. 

You know what khamsin is like, my friends ? But 
you cannot know what simoom- is like — simoom ir 
the heart of the desert! It came that morninir — l 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 177 

wall of sand so high as to shut out the sunlight, so 
dense as to turn the day into night, so suffocating 
that I thought I should never Kve through it I 

It was apparent to me that the Bedouins were 
prepared for the storm. The horses, the camels and 
the asses were tethered in an enclosure specially 
strengthened to exclude the choking dust, and with 
their cloaks about their heads the men prepared 
for the oncoming of this terror of the desert. 

My God! it was a demon which sought to blind 
me, to suffocate me, and which clutched at my throat 
with strangling fingers of sand I This, I told myself, 
was the danger which I might have avoided by quit- 
ting the camp before sunrise. 

Indeed, it was apparent to me that if I had taken 
the advice so strangely offered, I might now have 
been safe in the village of the Great Oasis for which 
I was bound. But I have since seen that the simoom 
was a minor danger, and not the real one to which 
this weird being had referred. 

The storm passed, and every man in the 
encampment praised the merciful God who had 
ripared us all. It was in the disturbance attendant 
upon putting the camp in order once more that I 
saw her. 

She came out from the tent of Said Mohammed, 
to shake the sand from a carpet; the newly come 
sunlight twinkled upon the bracelets which clasped 
her smooth brown arms as she shook the gaily 
colored mat at the tent door. The sunlight shone 
upon >er braided hair, upon her slight robe, upon 



178 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

her silver anklets, and upon her tiny feet. Trans- 
fixed I stood watching — indeed, my friends, almost 
holding my breath. Then the sunlight shone upon 
her eyes, two pools of mysterious darkness into 
which I found myself suddenly looking. 

The face of this lovely Arab maiden flushed, 
and drawing the comer of her robe across those 
bewitching eyes, she turned and ran back into the 
tent. 

One glance — just one glance, my friends! But 
never had Ulysses' bow propelled an arrow more 
sure, more deadly. I was nineteen, remember, and 
of Provence. What do you foresee ! You who have 
been through the world, you who once were nine- 
teen. 

I feigned a sickness, a sickness brought about by 
the sandstorm, and taking base advantage of that 
desert hospitality which is unbounded, which knows 
no suspicion, and takes no count of cost, I remained 
in the tent which had been vacated for me. 

In this voluntary confinement I learned little of 
the doings of the camp. All day I lay dreaming of 
two dark eyes, and at night when the jackals 
howled I thought of the wanderer who had counseled 
me to leave. One day, I lay so; a second; a third 
again; and the women of Sai'd Mohammed 'g house- 
hold tended me, closely veiled of course. But in 
vain I waited for that attendant whose absence was 
rendering my feigned fever a real one — whose eyes 
burned like torches in my dreams and for the coming 
of whose little bare feet across the sand to my tent 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 179 

door I listened hour by hour, day by day, in vain— 
always in vain. 

But at nineteen there is no such thing as despair, 
and hope has strength to defy death itself. It was 
in the violet dusk of the fourth day, as I lay there 
with a sort of shame of my deception struggling for 
birth in my heart, that she came. 

She came through the tent door bearing a bowl 
of soup, and the rays of the setting sun outlined her 
fairy shape through the gossamer robe as she 
entered. 

At that my poor weak little conscience troubled 
toe no more. How my heart leaped, leaped so that it 
threatened to choke me, who had come safe through 
a great sandstorm. 

There is fire in the Southern blood at nineteen, 
my friends, which leaps into flame beneath the 
glances of bright eyes. 

With her face modestly veiled, the Bedouin maid 
knelt beside me, placing the wooden bowl upon the 
groxmd. My eager gaze pierced the yashmak, but 
her black lashes were laid upon her cheek, her 
glorious eyes averted. My heart — or was it my 
vanity? — told me that she regarded me at least with 
interest, that she was not at ease in my company; 
and as, having spoken no word, having ventured no 
glance, she rose again to depart, I was emboldened 
to touch her hand. 

Like a startled gazelle she gave me one rapid 
glance, and was gone! 

She was gone — and my very soul gone with her I 



180 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

For honrs I lay, not so mucli as thinMng of th« 
food beside me — dreaming of her eyes. What were 
my plans? Faith! Does one have plans at nine- 
teen where two bright eyes are concerned? 

Alas, my friends, I dare not tell yon of my hopes, 
yet npon those hopes I lived. Oh, it is glorious to 
be nineteen and of Provence ; it is glorious when all 
the world is young, when the fruit is ripe upon the 
trees and the plucking seems no sin. Yet, as we 
look back, we perceive that at nineteen we were 
Ecoundrels. 

The Bedouin girl is a woman when a European 
woman is but a child, and Sakina, whose eyes could 
search a man's soul, was but twelve years of age — 
twelve ! Can you picture that child of twelve squeez- 
ing a lover's heart between her tiny hands, entwining 
his imagination in the coils of her hair? 

You, my friend, may perhaps be able to conceive 
this thing, for you know the East, and the women 
of the East. At ten or eleven years of age many of 
them are adorable; at twenty-one most of them are 
passe; at twenty-six all of them — ^with rare excep- 
tions — are shrieking hags. 

But to you, my other friends, who are strangers 
to our Oriental ways, who know not that the peach 
only attains to perfect ripeness for one short hour> 
it may be strange, it may be horrifying, that I loved, 
with all the ardor which was mine, this little Arab 
maiden, who, had she been bom in France, would 
not yet have escaped from the nursery. But I 
digress. 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 181 

The Arabs were encamped, of course, in the neigh- 
borhood of a spring. It lay in a slight depression 
amid the tiny palm-grove. Here, at sunset, came the 
women with their pitchers on their heads, graceful 
of carriage, veiled, mysterious. 

Many peaches have ripened and have rotted since 
those days of which I speak, but now — even now — ^I 
am still enslaved by the mystery of Egypt's veiled 
women. Untidy, bedraggled, dirty, she may be, but 
the real Egyptian woman when she bears her pitcher 
upon her head and glides, stately, sinuously, through 
the dusk to the well, is a figure to enchain the 
imagination. 

Very soon, then, the barrier of reserve which, like 
the screen of the harem, stands between Eastern 
Vomen and love, was broken. My trivial scruples I 
had cast to the winds, and feigning weakness, I 
would sally forth to take the air in the cool of the 
evening ; this two days later. 

My steps, be assured, led me to the spring; and 
you who are men of the world will know that Sakina, 
braving the reproaches of the Sheikh's household, 
neglectful of her duties, was last of all the women 
Who came to the well for water. 

I taught her to say my name — ^Rene ! How sweet 
it sounded from her lips, as she strove in vain to 
roll the *E* in our Provencal fashion. Some ginnee 
most certainly presided over this enchanted fountain, 
for despite the nearness of the camp our rendezvous 
Was never discovered, our meetings were never 
detected. 



182 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

With her pitcher upon the ground beside her, she 
would sit with those wistful, wonderful eyes up- 
raised to mine, and sway before the ardor of my 
impassioned words as a young and tender reed sways 
in the Nile breeze. Her budding soul was a love 
lute upon which I played in ecstasy; and when she 
raised her red lips to mine. . . . Ah! those nights 
in the boundless desert ! God is good to youth, and 
harsh to old age ! 

Next to Sai'd Mohammed, her father, Sakina's 
brother was the finest horseman of the tribe, and 
his white mare their fleetest steed. I had cast 
covetous eyes upon this glorious creature, my 
friends, and secretly had made such overtures as 
were calculated to win her confidence. 

Within two weeks, then, my plans were complete 
— up to a point. Since they were doomed to failure, 
like my great scheme, I shall not trouble you with 
their details, but an hour before dawn on a certain 
night I cut the camel-hair tethering of the white 
mare, and, undetected, led the beautiful creature over 
the silent sands to a cup-like depression, a thousand 
yards distant from the camp. 

The Bedouin who was upon guard that night had 
with him a gourd of 'erhsoos. This was customary, 
and I had chosen an occasion when the duty of filling 
the sentinel's gourd had fallen upon Sakina; to his 
'erhsoos I had added four drops of dark brown fluid 
from my medicine chest. 

It was an hour before dawn, then, when I stood 
beside the white mare, watching and listening; it 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 183 

was an hour before dawn when she for whom my 
great scheme was forgotten, for whom I was about 
to risk the anger, the just anger, of men amongst 
the most fierce in the known world, came running 
fleetly over the hillocks down into the little valley, 
and threw herself into my arms. . . . 

When dawn burst in gloomy splendor over the 
desert, we were still five hours' ride from the spot 
where I had proposed temporarily to conceal myself, 
with perhaps an hour's start of the Arabs. I knew 
the desert ways well enough, but the ghostly and 
desolate place in which I now found myself neverthe- 
less filled me with foreboding. 

A seam of black volcanic rock split the sands for 
a great distance, forming a kind of natural wall of 
forbidding aspect . In places this wall was pierced 
by tunnel-like openings ; I think they may have been 
prehistoric tombs. There was no scrap of verdure 
visible, north, south, east or west; only desolation, 
Band, grayness, and this place, ghostly and wan with 
that ancient sorrow, that odor of remote mortality 
Which is called **ihe dust of Egypt.'' 

Seated before me in the saddle, Sakina looked up 
into my face with a never-changing confidence, hav- 
ing her little brown fingers interlocked about my 
neck. But her strength was failing. A short rest 
was imperative. 

Thus far I had detected no evidence of pursuit 
and, descending from the saddle, I placed my weary 
companion upon a rock over which I had laid a rug, 
and poured out for her a draught of cool water. 



184 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Bread and dates were our breakfast fare; but 
bread and dates and water are nectar and ambrosia 
when they are sweetened with kisses. Oh ! the glori- 
ous madness of youth ! Sometimes, my friends, I am 
abnost tempted to believe that the man who . haa 
never been wicked has never been happy I 

Picture us, then, if you can, set amid that deso- 
lation, which for us was a rose-garden, eating of 
that unpalatable food — ^which for us was the food 
of the gods ! 

So we remained awhile, deliriously happy, though 
death might terminate our joys ere we again saw 
the sun, when something . . . something spoke to 
me . . . 

Understand me, I did not say that someone spoke, 
I did not say that anything audible spoke. But I 
know that, unlocking those velvet arms which clung 
to me, I stood up slowly — and, still slowly, turned 
and looked back at the frowning black rocks. 

Merciful God! My heart beats wildly now when 
I recall that moment. 

Motionless as a statue, but in a crouching atti- 
tude, as if about to leap down, he who had warned 
me so truly stood upon the highest point of the rocks 
watching us I 

How long did I remain thus! 

I cannot pretend to say; but when I turned to 
Sakina — she lay trembling on the ground, with her 
face hidden in her hands. 

Then, down over the piled-up rocks, this mys- 
terious and ominous being came leaping. Old maii 



LOKD OF THE JACKALS 185 

though he was, he descended with the agility of a 
mountain goat — and sometimes, in the difficult 
places, he went on all fours. 

Crossing the intervening strip of sand, he stood 
before me. You have seen the reproach in the eyes 
of a faithful dog whose master has struck him un- 
justly? Such a reproach shone out from the yellow 
eyes of this desert wanderer. I cannot account for 
it ; I can say no more. . . . 

It was impossible for me to speak; I trembled 
violently ; such a fear and such a madness of sorrow 
possessed me that I would have welcomed any death 
—to have freed me from that intolerable reproach. 

He suddenly pointed towards the horizon where 
against the curtain of the dawn black figures 
appeared. 

I fell upon my knees beside Sakina. I was a 
poor, pitiable thing ; the madness of my passion had 
left me, and already I was within the great Shadow ; 
I could not even weep ; I knew that I had brought 
Sakina out into that desolate place — ^to die. 

And now the man whose ways were unlike human 
ways began to babble insanely, gesticulating and 
plucking at me. I cannot hope to make you feel 
one little part of the emotion with which those 
instants were laden. Sakina clung to me trembling 
in a way I can never forget — ^never, never forget. 
And the look in her eyes! even now I cannot bear 
to think of it, I cannot bear 

Those almost colorless lizards which dart about 
in the desert places with incredible swiftness were 



186 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

now coming forth from their nests ; and all the while 
the black figures, unheard as yet, were approaching 
along the path of the sun- 

My mad folly grew more apparent to me every 
moment. I realized that this which so rapidly was 
overtaking me had been inevitable from the first. 
The strange wild man stood watching me with that 
intolerable glare, so that my trembling companion 
shrank from him in horror. 

But evidently he was seeking to convey some idea 
to me. He gesticulated constantly, pointing to the 
approaching Arabs and then over his shoulder to 
the fro^vning rock behind. Since it was too late for 
flight — for I knew that the white mare with a double 
burden could never outpace our pursuers — it oc- 
curred to me at the moment when the mulBQed beat 
of hoofs first became audible, that this hermit of 
the rocks was endeavoring to induce me to seek some 
hiding-place with which no doubt he was acquainted 

How I cursed the delay which had enabled the 
Arabs to come up with us ! I know, now, of course, 
that even had I not delayed, our ultimate capture 
was certain. But at the moment, in my despair, I 
thought otherwise. 

And now I cursed the stupidity which had pre- 
vented me from following this weird guide ; I even 
thought wrathfully of the poor frightened child, 
whose weakness had necessitated the delay and 
whose fears had contributed considerably to this 
later misunderstanding. 

The pursuing party, numbering four, and led by 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 187 

Said Mohammed, was no more than five hundred 
yards away when I came to my senses. The hermit 
now was tugging at my arm with frightful insist- 
ence; his eyes were glaring insanely, and he chat- 
tered in an almost pitiable manner. 

**Quick!*' I cried, thromng my arm about Sakina, 
**up to the rocks. This man can hide us!'* 

**No, no I'* she whispered, **I dare not '' 

But I lifted her, and signing to the singular being 
to lead the way, staggered forward despairingly. 

The distance was greater than it appeared, the 
climb incredibly difficult. My guide held out his 
hand to me to assist me to mount the slippery 
rocks; but I had much ado to proceed and also to 
support Sakina. 

Her terror of the man and of the place to which 
he was leading us momentarily increased. Indeed, 
it seemed that she was becoming mad with fear. 
When the man paused before an opening in the 
rocks not more than fifteen or sixteen inches i» 
height, and wildly waving his arms in the air, his 
elfin locks flying about his shoulder, his eyes glassy, 
intimated that we were to crawl in — Sakina writhed 
free of my grasp and bounded back some three or 
four paces down the slope. 

**Not in there!'' she cried, holding out her little 
hands to me pitifully, **I dare not! He would de- 
vour us!" 

At the foot of the slope. Said Mohammed, who 
had dismounted from his horse, and who, far ahead 
of the others, was advancing towards us, at that 



188 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

moment raised his gnn and fired. . . . 

Can I go on! 

It is more years ago than I care to connt, but 
it is fresher in my mind than the things of yesterday. 
A lonely old age is before me, my friends — for I 
have been a solitary man since that shot was fired. 
For me it changed the face of the world, for me it 
ended youth, revealing me to myself for what I was. 

Something more nearly resembling human speech 
than any sound he had yet uttered burst from the 
lips of the wild man as the report of Said Moham- 
med's shot whispered in echoes through the mys- 
terious labyrinths beneath us. 

Fate had stood at the Sheikh's elbow as he pulled 
the trigger. 

With a little soft cry — I hear it now, gentle, but 
having in it a world of agony — Sakina sank at my 
feet . . . and her blood began to trickle over the 
black rocks on which she lay. 

The man who professes to describe to you his 
emotions at such a frightful moment is an impostor. 
The world grew black before my eyes; every 
emotion of which my being was capable became 
paralysed. 

I heard nothing, I saw nothing but the little 
huddled figure, that red stream upon the black rock, 
and the agonized love in the blazing eyes of Sakina. 
Groaning, I threw myself down beside her, and as 
she sighed out her life upon my breast, I knew — 
God heb3 me — ^that what had been but a youthful 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 189 

amour, was now a life's tragedy; that for me the 
light of the world had gone out, that I should never 
again know the warmth of the sun and the gladness 
of the morning. . . . 

The cave man, with a dog-like fidelity, sought 
now to drag me from my dead love, to drag me into 
that gloomy lair which she had shrunk from enter- 
ing. His incoherent mutterings broke in upon my 
semi-coma; but I shook him off, I shrieked curses 
at him. . . . 

Now the Bedouins were mounting the slope, not 
less than a hundred yards below me. In the grow- 
ing light I could see the face of Said Mohammed. . . . 

The man beside me exerted all his strength to 
drag me back into the gallery or cave — I know not 
what it was ; but with my arms locked about Sakina 
I lay watching the pursuers coming closer and closer. 

Then, those persistent efforts suddenly ceased, and 
dully I told myself that this weird being, having 
done his best to save me, had fled in order to save 
himself. 

I was wrong. 

You have asked me for a story of the magic of 
Egypt, and although, as you see, it has cost me tears 
— oh ! I am not ashamed of those tears, my friends ! 
' — ^I have recounted this story to you. You say, 
where is the magic? and I might reply? the magic 
was in the changing of my false love to a true. But 
there was another magic as well, and it grew up 
around me now at this moment when I lay inert, 
waiting for death. 



190 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

From behind me, from above me, arose a cry — 
a cry. You may have heard of the Bedouin song, 
the *Mizmune*: 

"Ya men melek ana dSri waat sa jebb, 
Id el' ish hoos' a beb hatsa azat ta lebb." 

You may have heard how when it is sung in a 
certain fashion, flowers drop from their stalks? 
Also, you may have doubted this, ]iever having 
heard a magical cry. 

I do not doubt it, my friends ! For I have heard 
a magical cry — this cry which arose from behind 
me! It started some chord in my dulled conscious- 
ness which had never spoken before. I turned my 
head — and there upon the highest point of the rocka 
stood the cave man. He suddenly stretched forth 
his hands. 

Again he uttered that uncanny, that indescribable 
cry. It was not human. It was not animal. Yet 
it was nearer to the cry of an animal than to any 
sound made by the human species. His eyes gleamed 
with an awful light, his spare body had assumed a 
strange significance ; he was transfigured. 

A third time he uttered the cry, and out from one 
of those openings in the rock which I have men- 
tioned, crept a jackal. You know how a jackal avoids 
the day, how furtive, how nocturnal a creature 
it is? but there in the golden glory which pro- 
claimed the coming of the sun, black silhouettes 
moved. 

A great wonder possessed me, as the first jacka! 
was followed by a second, by a third, by a fourth. 



LOBD OF THE JACKAJLS 191 

by a fifth. Did I say a fifth? ... By five hmidred 
— ^by five thousand I 

From every visible hole in the rocks, jackals 
poured forth in packs. Wonder left me, fear left 
me ; I forgot my sorrow, I became a numbed intelli- 
gence amid a desert of jackals. Over a sea of moving 
furry backs, I saw that upstanding crag and the 
weird crouching figure upon it. Right and left, 
above and below, jackals moved . . . and all turned 
their heads towards the approaching Bedouins 1 

Again — again I heard that dreadful cry. The 
jackals, in a pack, thousands strong, began to ad- 
vance upon the Bedouins ! . . . 

Not east or west, north or south, could you 
hope to find a braver man than was the Sheikh Said 
Mohammed; but — he fled! 

I saw the four horsemen riding like furies into 
the morning sun. The white mare, riderless, gal- 
loped with them — and the desert behind was yellow 
with jackals! For the last time I heard the cry. 

The jackals began to return! 

Forgive me, dear friends, if I seem an emotional 
fool. But when I recovered from the swoon which 
blotted out that unnatural spectacle, the wizard — • 
for now I knew him for nothing less — had dug a 
deep trench — and had left me, alone. 

Not a jackal was in sight; the sun blazed cruelly 
upon the desert. With my own hands I laid my 
love to rest in the sands. No cross, no crescent 
marks her resting-place; but I left my youth upoflQ 
her grave, as a last offering. 



192 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

Yon may say that, since I had sinned so griev- 
ously, since I had betrayed the noble confidence of 
Said Mohammed, my host, I escaped lightly. 

Ah ! you do not know ! 

And what of the strange being whose gratitude I 
had done so little to merit but yet which knew no 
bounds? It is of him that I will tell you. 

Years later — how many it does not matter, but I 
Was a man with no illusions — ^my restless wander- 
ings (I being still a desert bird-of -passage) brought 
me one night to a certain well but rarely visited. It 
lay in a depression, like another well that I am 
fated often to see in my dreams, and, as one ap- 
proached, the crowns of the palm trees which grew 
there appeared above the mounds of sand. 

I was alone and tired out ; the next possible camp- 
ing-place — for I had no water — was many miles 
away. Yet it was written that I should press on to 
that other distant well, weary though I was. 

First, then, as I came up, I perceived numbers of 
vultures in the air ; and I began to fear that someone 
near to his end lay at the well. But when, from the 
top of a mound, I obtained a closer view, I saw a 
sight that, after one quick glance, caused me to spur 
up my tired horse and to fly — fly, with panic in my 
heart. 

The briUiant moon bathed the hollow in light and 
cast dense shadows of the palm stems upon the slope 
beyond. By the spring, his fallen face ghastly in 
the moonlight, in a clear space twenty feet across, 
lay a dead man. 



LORD OF THE JACKALS 193 

Even from where I sat I knew him; but, had I 
doubted, other evidence was there of his identity. 
As I mounted the slope, thousands of fiery eyes were 
turned upon me. 

God I that arena all about was alive with jackals 
— jackals, my friends, eaters of carrion — ^which, 
silent, watchful, guarded the wizard dead, who, 
living, had been their lord! 



n 

LUBE OF SOULS 



THIS is the story which Bernard Fane told 
me one afternoon as we sat sipping China 
tea in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, follow- 
ing a round upon the neighboring links. 

The life of a master at the training college (said 
Fane) is beastly uneventful, taken all around; not 
even your keen sense of the romantic could long 
survive it. The duties are not very exacting, cer- 
tainly, and in our own way I suppose we are Empire 
builders of a sort; but when you ask me for a true- 
story of Egyptian life, I find myself floored at once. 

We all come out with the idea of the mystic East 
strong upon us, but it is an idea that rarely survive? 
one summer in Cairo. Personally, I made a more 
promising start than the average; an adventure 
oame my way on the very day I landed in Port Said, 
in fact it began on the way out. But alas ! it was not 
only the first, but the last adventure which Egypt 
has offered me. 

I have not related the story more than five hun- 
dred times, so that you will excuse me if I foozle 
h in places. I will leave you to do the polishing. 

On my first trip out, then, I joined the ship at 
Marseilles, and saw my cabin trunk placed in a nica 

194 



LTJEE OF SOULS 195 

deck berth, with the liveliest satisfaction. Walking 
along the white promenade deck, I felt no end of a 
man of the world. Every Anglo-Indian that I met 
seemed a figure from the pages of Kipling, and when 
I accidentally blundered into the ayahs' quarters, I 
could almost hear the jangle of the temple bells, so 
primed was I with traditions of the Orient — ^the 
traditions one gathers from books of the lighter 
sort, I mean. 

You will see that in those days I was not a bit 
blase; the glamour of the East was very real to m«. 
For that matter, it is more real than ever, now; 
Near or Far, the East has a call which, once heard, 
can never be forgotten, and never be unheeded. But 
the call it makes to those who have never been there 
is out of tune, I have learned; or rather, it is not 
in the right key. 

Well, I had a most glorious bath — ^I am sybarite 
enough to love the luxuriance of your modern liner 
— got into blue serge, and felt no end of an adven- 
turer. There was a notice on the gangway that the 
steamer would not leave Marseilles until ten o^clock 
at night, but I was far too young a traveller to risk 
missing the boat by going ashore again. You know 
the feeling? Consequently I took my place in the 
saloon for dinner, and vaguely wondered why nobody 
else had dressed for the function. I was a proper 
Johnny Raw, no end of a Johnny Raw, but I enjoyed 
it all immensely, nevertheless. I personally super- 
intended the departure of the ship, and believed thdt 
every deck-hand took me for a hardened glob#- 



196 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

trotter ; and when at last I songht my cosy cabin, all 
•potlessly white, with my trunk tucked under the 
bunk, and, drawing the little red curtain, I sat down 
to sum up the sensations of the day, I was thoroughly 
satisfied with it all. 

Gad! novelty is the keynote of life, don't you 
think? When one is young, one envies older and 
more experienced men, but what has the world left 
of novelty to offer them? The simple matter of 
joining a steamboat, and taking possession of my 
berth, had afforded me thrills which some of my 
fellow-passengers — those whom I envied the most 
for the stories of life written upon their tanned 
features — could only hope to taste by means of big- 
game hunting, now, or other far-fetched methods of 
thrill-giving. 

It wore off a bit the next day, of course, and I 
found that once one has settled do\sTi to it^ ocean 
traveling is merely floating hotel life. But many of 
my fellow-passengers (the boat was fairly full) still 
appealed to me as books of romance which I longed 
to open. And before the end of that second day, 
I became possessed of the idea that there was som6 
deep mystery aboard. Since this was my first voy- 
age, something of that sort was to be expected of 
me ; but it happened that I stood by no means alone 
in this belief. 

In the smoking-room, after dinner, I got into con- 
versation with a chap of about my own age who was 
bound for Colombo — ^tea-planting. We chatted on 
different topics for half an hour, and discovered 



LUEE OF SOULS 197 

that we had mutual friends, or rather, the other 
fellow discovered it. 

**Have you noticed,'' he said, **a distinguished- 
looking Indian personage, who, with three native 
friends, sits at the small comer table on our leftT" 

Hamilton — that was my acquaintance's name — 
Was my right-hand neighbor at the chief officer's 
table, and I recollected the group to which he re- 
ferred immediately. 

^'Yes," I replied; **who are they?" 

'*I don't know," answered Hamilton, **but I have 
a suspicion that they are mysterious." 

** Mysterious!" 

**Well, they joined at Marseilles, just before your- 
self. They were received by the skipper in person, 
and two of them were closeted in his cabin for twenty 
minutes or more." 

**What do you make of that!'* 

** Can't make anything of it, but their whole be- 
havior strikes me as peculiar, somehow. I cannot 
quite explain myself, but you say that you have 
noticed something of the sort, yourself!" 

**They certainly keep very much to themselves," 
I said. Hamilton glanced at me quickly. 

''Naturally," he replied. 

Not desiring to appear stupid, I did not ask him to 
elucidate this remark, although at the time it meant 
nothing to me. Of course I have learned since, as 
everyone learns whose lines are cast among Orien- 
tals, that iron barriers divide the races. But at the 
time I knew nothing of this — as will shortly appear. 



198 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

During breakfast on the following morning, I 
glanced several times at the mysterious quartette. 
They had been placed at a separate table and were 
served with different courses from the rest of the 
passengers. I was not the only member of the com- 
pany who found them interesting, but the Anglo- 
Indians on board, to a man, left the native party 
severely alone. You know the icy aloofness of the 
Anglo-Indians ? 

My second day at sea wore on, uneventfully 
enough; the bugle had already announced the hour 
for dressing, and the boat-deck outside my berth, 
where I had had my chair placed, was practically 
deserted, when something occurred to turn my 
thoughts from the four Indians. It was a glorious 
evening, with the sun setting out across the Mediter- 
ranean in such a red blaze of glory that I sat watch- 
ing it fascinatedly, my book lying unheeded on the 
deck beside me. Eight and left of me men occupying 
the other deck cabins had lighted up, and were busily 
dressing. Right aft was a corner cabin, larger than 
the others, and suddenly I observed the door of this 
to open. 

A slim figure glided out on to the deck, and began 
to advance toward me. It proved to be that of a 
woman or girl dressed in clinging black silk, and 
wearing a yashmak! She had a richly embroidered 
ehawl thrown over her head and shoulders, and in 
that coy half-light she presented a dazzlingly beau- 
tiful picture. 

It was my first sight of a t/ashmah, and, because 



LURE OF SOULS 199 

it was worn by a marvelonsly pretty woman, tho 
thousands seen since have never entirely lost their 
charm for me. I could detect the lines of an ex- 
quisitely chiseled nose, and the long dark eyes of 
the apparition were entirely unforgettable. The 
hand with which she held her shawl about her was 
of ivory smoothness, and, like a little red lamp, a 
great ruby blazed upon the index finger. 

With her high-heeled shoes tapping daintily upon 
the deck she advanced; then, suddenly perceiving 
that the promenade was not entirely deserted, she 
turned, but not hastily or rudely, and glided back 
to her cabin. 

I have endeavored to outline for your benefit the 
state of my mind at this period, hinting how keenly 
alive I was to romance of any sort, provided it wore 
the guise of the Orient ; so that it will be unnecessary 
for me to explain how strong an impression this 
episode made upon me. The Indian party was for- 
gotten, and as I hastily dressed and descended to 
dinner, I scarcely listened to Hamilton when he bent 
toward me and whispered something about the 
'* Strong Room." 

My gaze was roaming about the spacious saloom 
Even in those days I might have known better; 
I might have known that no Mohammedan woman 
would take her meals in a public saloon. But I was 
too dazzled by my memories to summon to my aid 
such fragments of knowledge respecting Eastern 

customs as were mine. 

• ••••« 



«X) TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

Well, some little time elapsed before I saw or 
heard anything further of the houri. I began to 
settle down to the routine of the trip, and (you 
know how news circulates through a ship?) it was 
not very long before I knew as much as any of the 
other passengers knew. 

Hamilton was a sort of filter through which it 
all came to me, and of course it was not undiluted, 
but colored with his own views. The lady of the 
yashmak, he informed me, was a member of the 
household of a wealthy Moslem in the neighborhood 
of Damascus. She was travelling via Port Said, 
and taking a Khedivial boat from there to Beyrut. 
He was a perfect mine of information, but his real 
interest was centered all the time on the party of 
four Indians. 

*^They are emissaries of the Rajah of Bhotana,'' 
he informed me confidentially. **The mystery be- 
gins to clear up. You must have read about a month 
ago that Lola de PIris was selling some of her 
jewelery and devoting the proceeds to the founding 
of an orphanage or something of the kind; quite a 
unique advertisement. Well, the famous Ladian dia • 
mond presented to her by one of the crowned heads 
of Europe was amongst the bunch which she sold; 
and after staying in the West for over fifty years, 
it is again on its way back to the East where it came 
from." 

I began to recollect the circumstances, now; the 
historic Indian diamond — I do not know Hindustani, 
but its name translated means **Lure of Souls'' — 



LUEE OF SOULS 201 

had been in the possession of the dancer for many- 
years, and its sale for such a purpose had turned 
the limelight upon her most enviably. It was a new 
idea in advertising, and had proved an admirable 
success. 

So the four reticent gentlemen were the guardians 
of the diamond. Under normal circumstances this 
might have been interesting, but, as I have tried to 
make clear, another matter engrossed my attention. 
In fact, I was living in a dream-world. 

Of course, my opportunity came, in due course. 
One evening, as I mooned on the shadowy deck — * 
which was quite deserted, because an extempore 
dance was taking place on the deck below — she came 
gliding along towards me. I could see her eyes 
sparkling in the moonlight. 

At first I feared that she was going to turn back. 
She hesitated, in a wildly alluring manner, when 
first she saw me sitting there watching her. Then, 
turning her head aside, she came on, and passed me. 
I never took my eyes off that graceful figure for a 
moment. 

Coming to the rail, she leaned and looked out 
toward the coast of Crete, where silver tracings in 
the blue marked the mountain peaks ; then, shivering 
slightly, and wrapping her embroidered shawl more 
closely about her shoulders, she retraced her steps. 

Not a yard from where I sat, she dropped a little 
silk handkerchief on the deck! 

How my heart leapt at that ! the rest was a magical 
whirl ; and ten seconds later I was chatting with her. 



202 TALES OF SECBET EGYPT 

She spoke fluent Frencli, but little English. 

She appealed to me in a way that was new and 
almost irresistible ; it was an appeal quite Oriental, 
sensuous — indescribable. I just wanted to take her 
in my arms and kiss those tantalizing lips; talking 
seemed a waste of time. Of course, I cannot hope 
to make you understand; but it was extraordinary. 
I felt that I was losing my head; the glances of 
those long dark eyes were setting me on fire. 

Suddenly, she terminated this, our first tete-a-tete. 
She raised her finger to her veiled lips and glided 
away into the shadows like a phantom A sentence 
died, unfinished, on my tongue. I turned, and looked 
over my shoulder. 

Gad ! I got a fright ! A most hideous Oriental of 
some kind, having only one eye but that afire with 
malignancy, was watching me from where he stood 
half concealed by a boat. 

My lily of Damascus was guarded I 

Humming, with an assumption of unconcern, I 
strolled away and joined the dancers below. 



That was the beginning, then. I cursed to think 
how short a time was at my disposal; but since, 
the very next morning, I found myself enjo}dng 
a second delicious little stolen interview, I perceived 
that my company was not unacceptable. 

What ? oh, I had lost my head entirely ; I admit it. 

It was an effort to speak of matters ordinary, 



LUEE OF SOULS 203 

topics of the ship; my impulse was to whisper de- 
licioils nonsense into those tiny ears. However, I 
forced myself to talk about things in general, and 
told her that the famous diamond. Lure of Souls, 
was aboard. 

This was news to her, and she seemed to be 
tremendously interested. Her interest was of such a 
childish sort, so naive, that the project grew up in 
my mind at that very moment — the project that was 
to terminate so disastrously. It was hardly a matter 
of so many words ; there was nothing definite about 
the thing at all, and this, our second interview, wa? 
cut short in much the same manner as the first. 

''Ssh! Mustaphaf' 

With those whispered words, and a dazzling smile, 
this jewel of Damascus who interested me so much 
more deeply than the Rajah's diamond, departed 
hurriedly — and I turned to meet again the malignant 
^aze of the wall-eyed guardian. 

The sort of romance in which I was steeped at 
that time flourishes and grows fat upon incidents 
of this kind. I have searched my memory many a 
time since then, for some word or hint to prove that 
the conversation about the diamond was opened and 
guided in a desired direction by the lady of the 
yashmak; but excluding transmission of thought, I 
could never find any evidence of the kind — have 
never been able to do so. 

Certainly my memories of that period are hazy 
except in regard to Nahemah. If I were an artist, 
I could paint her portrait from memory without 



204 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

the slightest error, I think. She occupied my 
thoughts to the exclusion of all else. But the project 
was formed and carried out. Hamilton was one of 
those popular men who seem born to occupy the 
chair at any kind of meeting at which they may be 
present; he organized almost every entertainment 
that took place on board. At first he was not at all 
keen on the idea. 

** There are all sorts of difficulties," he said; *'and 
one doesn^t care to ask a favor of a native. At any 
rate one doesn't care to be refused.'' 

But I had set my heart upon gratifying Nahe- 
mah's curiosity, and, with the aid of Hamilton, it 
was all arranged satisfactorily. The native guar- 
dians of the diamond were rather flattered than 
otherwise, and a select little party of the **best" 
people on board met in the chief officer's cabin to 
view Lure of Souls. 

The difficulty in regard to Nahemah was readily 
overcome by Hamilton the energetic, and Dr. Patter- 
son's wife *Hook her up" for the occasion in a de- 
lightfully patronizing manner. The four swarthy, 
polite Orientals were there, of course ; several other 
ladies in addition to Mrs. Patterson and Nahemah, 
the chief officer, myself, Hamilton, and a sepulchral 
Scotch curate, the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson, whom I 
had scarcely noticed hitherto, and whose presence at 
this ** select" gathering rather surprised me. 

The sea was like a sheet of glass, and this was 
the hottest day which I had yet experienced. It 
was about an hour before lunch-time when we 



LURE OF SOULS 205 

gathered to view the diamond ; and Mr. Brodie, the 
chief officer, exercised his pawky humor in a series 
of elaborate pantomimic precautions, locking the 
door with labored care, and treating the ladies of 
the company to Bluebeard glances of frightful 
intensity. 

Phew! if we had only known! . . . 

Finally one of the Indians took out the diamond 
from its case — which had been brought from the 
strong-room a few minutes before. It was a wonder- 
ful thing, I suppose, of quite unusual size, and it 
sparkled and gleamed in the sunlight streaming 
through the open porthole in an absolutely dazzling 
fashion. I had ranged myself close beside Nahemah. 
Each of us was permitted to handle the stone. It 
was I who passed it to her, Mr. Rawlingson having 
passed it to me. She held it in the palm of her 
little hand, and her eyes sparkled with childish de- 
light as she bent to examine the gem. Then a very 
strange thing happened. 

From somewhere behind me — ^I was sitting with 
iny back to the porthole — a dull gray object came 
leaping and twirling; and a scorpion — I have never 
seen a larger specimen — fell upon Nahemah *s wrist! 

She uttered a piercing cry, dropped the diamond 
and brushed the horrid insect from her wrist; then 
fell swooning into my arms. . . . 

A scene of incredible confusion followed. The 
four Indians, ignoring the presence of the scorpion, 
dropped like cats upon the floor, seeking for Lure 
of Souls. Mrs. Patterson and I carried Nahemah 



206 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

to the sofa hard by and laid her upon it. Just a& 
we did so the scorpion darted from between the end 
of the sofa and the wardrobe, and the chief officer 
put his foot upon it. 

Ensuing events were indescribable. Since the dia- 
mond had not yet been picked up, obviously the 
cabin door could not be unlocked; so in the stuffy 
atmosphere of the place it was a matter of some diffi- 
culty to revive Nahemah. Meanwhile, four wild-eyed 
Indians were creeping about amongst our feet — ^like 
cats, as I have said before. 

In the end, just as the girl began to revive some- 
what, it became evident that Lure of Souls was miss- 
ing. A pearl shirt button, the ownership of which 
we were unable to establish, was picked up, but no 
diamond. 

The chief officer showed himself a man of price- 
less tact. He rang for the stewardess, and the ladie? 
were shepherded to a neighboring, vacant cabin 
Then the door was relocked, and Mr. Brodie pro- 
ceeded to strip, placing his garments one by one 
upon the little folding table for examination. He 
was not satisfied until every man present had over- 
hauled them. We all followed his example, the Rev. 
Mr. Rawlingson last of all . . . and Lure of Souls 
was still on the missing list ! 

Then we gave the chief officer's cabin such a turn- 
out as it had never had before, I should assume. 
Our quest was unrewarded. Meanwhile, the ladies 
had been submitted to a similar search in the adjoin- 
ing cabin ; same result. 



LURE OF SOULS 207 

With great difficulty we succeeded in hushing up 
the matter to a certain extent; but the captain's 
language to the chief officer was appalling, and the 
chief officer's remarks to Hamilton were equally un- 
parliamentary; whilst Hamilton seemed to consider 
that he was justified in placing the whole blame upon 
me, which he did in terms little short of insulting. 
The four Indians apparently regarded all of us with 
equal suspicion and animosity. 

I could not foresee the end. The thing was so 
sudden, so serious, that at the time it banished even 
thoughts of Nahemah from my mind. I anticipated 
that we should all find ourselves arrested when we 
reached Port Said. 

Later in the day Hamilton walked into my cabin 
and placed a little cardboard box upon the dressing- 
table. It contained the crushed body of the scorpion. 

** Where did that scorpion come from?'' he de- 
manded abruptly. 

It was a question which already had been asked 
fully a thousand times, yet no one had discovered 
an intelligent reply. 

I shook my head. 

*'It came from the open porthole," he replied, 
^'*and as it's a thousand to one against a scorpion 
being aboard, somebody was carrying it for this 
very purpose — somebody who was on the deck out- 
side the chief officer's cabin and who threw the 
scorpion into the cabin. ' ' 

**But such a deadly thing. . . /' 

**Have a good look," said Hamilton, turning the 



208 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

insect over with a lead pencil; *Hhis one isn't deadly 
at all. See ! — ^his tail has been cut off ! ' ' 

I looked and stifled an exclamation. It was as 

Hamilton had said. The scorpion was harmless. 

****** 

I never once set eyes upon Nahemah again until 
we arrived at Port Said. Then I saw her preparing 
to go ashore in one of the boats. I managed to join 
her, ignoring the scowls of her one-eyed attendant, 
and we arrived at the quay together. Right there 
by the water's edge a most curious scene was being 
enacted. Surrounded by two or three passengers 
and a perfect ring of uniformed officials, Hamiltcn, 
very excited, watched his baggage being turned out 
upon the ground. He saw me approaching. 

**Hang it all, Fane,'* he cried, ^^this is disgrace- 
ful! — I don't know upon whose orders they are 
acting, but the beastly police are searching my 
baggage for the diamond. ..." 

I thought it very extraordinary and said as muc^ 
to the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson, who was one of the 
onlookers. 

**It is very strange mdeed,'' he said mildly, turn- 
ing his gold-rimmed spectacles in my direction. 

A moment later, to my horror and indignation, 
Nahemah was submitted to the same indignity ! The 
crowd had been roped off from the part of the 
quay upon which we stood, and I could see that the 
whole thing had been arranged beforehand in some 
way, probably by wireless from the ship. Curiously, 
as I thought at the time, my own baggage was not 



LURE OF SOULS 209 

examined in this way, but I was detained long enough 
to lose sight of Nahemah and her one-eyed guardian. 
"When I got to the hotel I indulged in some reflection. 
It occurred to me that Hamilton was bound for 
Colombo, which made it rather singular that he 
should have had his baggage put ashore at Port 
Said. 

I should have liked to have searched the town 
for my lady of the yashmak , but having no clue 
to her present whereabouts, realized the futility of 
such a proceeding. My last thought before I fell 
asleep that night was that some day in the near 
future I should visit Damascus. 



m 



I saw very little of Port Said, for we had arrived 
m the early morning and I was departing for Cairo 
by a train leaving shortly before midday. I wan- 
dered about the quaint streets a bit, however, and 
wondered if, from one of the latticed windows over- 
hanging me, the dark eyes of Nahemah were peering 
out. 

Although I looked up and down the train fairly 
carefully, I failed to find among the passengers any- 
one whom I knew, and I settled down into my comer 
to study the novel scenery uninterruptedly. The 
shipping in the canal fascinated me for a long time 
as did the figures which moved upon its shores. The 
ditches and embankments, aimlessly wandering foot- 
paths, and moving figures which seemed to belong to 



210 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

a thousand years ago, seized upon my imagination 
as they seize upon the imagination of every traveller 
when first he beholds them. 

But, properly speaking, my story jumps now to 
Zagazig. The train stopped at Zagazig; and, walk- 
ing out into the corridor and lowering a window, I 
was soon absorbed in contemplation of that unique 
town. Its narrow, dirty, swarming streets; the 
millions of flies that boarded the train; the noisy 
vendors of sugar cane, tangerine oranges and other 
commodities ; the throng beyond the barriers gazing 
open-mouthed at me as I gazed open-mouthed at 
them — it was a first impression, but an indelible one. 

I was not to know it was written that I should 
spend the night in Zagazig; but such was the case. 
Generally speaking, I have found the service on 
the Egyptian State Railway very good, but a hitch 
of some kind occurred on this occasion, and after 
an hour or so of delay, it was definitely announced 
to the passengers that owing to an accident to the 
permanent way, the journey to Cairo could not be 
continued until the following morning. 

Then commenced a rush which I did not under- 
stand at first, and in which, feeling no desire to 
exert myself unduly, I did not participate. Half 
an hour later I ascertained that the only two hotels 
which the place boasted were full to overflowing, 
and realized what the rush had meant. It was all 
part of the great scheme of things, no doubt; but 
when, thanks to the kindly, if mercenary, offices of 
the International Sleeping Car attendant, I found 



LUEE OF SOULS 211 

myself in possession of a room at a sort of native 
khan in the lower end of the town, I experienced no 
very special gratitude towards Providence. 

I have enjoyed the hospitality of less pleasing 
caravanserai since, but this was my first experience 
of the kind, and I thought very little of it. 

My room boasted a sort of bed, certainly, but 
without entering into details, I may say that there 
were earlier occupants who disputed its possession. 
The plaster of the walls — ^the place apparently was 
built of a mixture of straw and dried mud — ^pro- 
vided residence not only for mosquitoes, but also for 
ants, and the entire building was redolent of an 
odor suggestive of dried bones. That smell of dried 
bones is characteristic, I have learned, of the sites 
of ancient Egyptian cities (Zagazig is close to the 
ruins of ancient Bubastis, of course) ; one gets it in 
the temples and the pyramids, also. But it was 
novel to me, then, and not pleasing. 

I killed time somehow or other until the dinner 
hour; and the train, which now reposed in a siding, 
became a rendezvous for those who desired to pat- 
ronize the dining-car. Evidently no sleeping-cars 
were available (or perhaps that idea was beyond the 
imagination of the native officials), and having left 
a trail of tobacco smoke along the principal native 
street, I turned into my apartment which I shared 
with the ants, mosquitoes — and the other things. 

An examination of my rooms by candle-light re- 
vealed the presence of a cupboard, or what I thought 
to be a cupboard, but opening the double doors I 



212 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

saw that it was a window, latticed and overlooking 
a lower apartment ; so much I perceived by the light 
of an oil lamp which stood upon the table. Then, 
stifling a gasp of amazement, I hastily snuffed my 
candle and peered down eagerly at that incredible 
scene. . . . 

Nahemah, longer veiled, was sitting at the table, 
and opposite to her was seated the hideous wall- 
eyed attendant! 

They were conversing in low tones, so that, strive 
as I would, I could not overhear a word. You ask 
me why I spied upon the lady^s privacy in this man- 
ner? For a very good reason. 

Midway between the two, upon the rough boards 
of the table, lay Lure of Souls, twinkling and glitter- 
ing like a thing of incarnate light. 

I observed that there was a door to the room 
below, almost immediately opposite the window 
through which I was peering . . . and this door was 
opening very slowly and noiselessly. At least, I 
could hear no noise, but the one-eyed man detected 
something, for suddenly he started up and did a 
remarkable thing. Snatching up the diamond from 
the table, he clapped it into the eyeless cavity of 
his skull and turned in a twinkling to face the 
intruder. 

Then the door was thrown open, and Hamilton 
leapt into the room. 

I could scarcely credit my senses. Honestly, I 
thought I was dreaming. Hamilton's whole face 
was changed: a hard, cunning look had come over 



LUEE OF SOULS 213 

it, and he held a revolver in his hand. Nahemah 
sprang to her feet as he entered, but he covered the 
pair of them with his revolver, and pointing to the 
one-eyed man muttered something in a low voice. 
Rage, fear, rebellion chased in turn across the evil 
features of One-eye ; but there was something about 
Hamilton's manner that cowed. 

Manipulating the sunken eyelids as though they 
had been of rubber, the guardian of the veiled lady 
slipped the diamond into the palm of his hand and 
tossed it, glittering, on to the table. 

Hamilton's expression of triumph I shall never 
forget. One step forward he took and was about 
to snatch up the gem when — out of the dark cavity 
of the doorway behind him stepped a second 
intruder. 

It was the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson ! 

The reverend gentleman's behavior was most nn- 
clerical. He leapt upon the unsuspecting Hamilton 
like a panther and screwed the muzzle of a revolver 
into that gentleman's right ear with quite unneces- 
sary vigor. 

*^You have been wasting your time, Farland!" 
he snapped in a voice that was quite new to me. 
**That is, unless you have turned amateur detective." 

He made no attempt to reach for the diamond, 
but just held out his hand, and with his eyes fixed 
upon Hamilton, silently commanded the latter to 
hand over the gem. This Hamilton did with pal- 
pable reluctance. Mr. Rawlingson, who, though still 
clerically garbed, had discarded his spectacles,, 



214 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

slipped the stone into his pocket, snatched the re- 
volver from Hamilton's hand and jerked his thumb 
in the direction of the open door. Hamilton shrugged 
his shoulders and walked out of the room. For 
scarce a moment did Rawlingson's eyes turn to fol- 
low the retreating figure, but the chance was good 
enough for the wall-eyed man. 

He launched himself through space like nothing 
so much as a kangaroo, bearing Rawlingson irre- 
sistibly to the floor! With his lean hands at the 
other's throat he turned his solitary eye upon Nahe- 
mah, muttering something gutturally. After a 
moment's hesitation she ran from the room. 

Twenty seconds later I was downstairs, and ten 
seconds after that was helping Rawlingson to his 
feet. He was considerably shaken and boasted a 
very elegant design in bruises which was just be- 
ginning to reveal itself upon his throat; but other- 
wise he was unhurt. 

* ^ I have lost her, Mr. Fane ! ' ' were his first words. 
'*She knows this part of the world inside out. I 
have no case against Farland, but I am sorry to 
have lost the woman. ' ' 

Was my mind in a whirl? Did I think that mad- 
ness had seized me f Replies both in the afi&rmative ; 
I was simply staggered. 

I always go to pieces with this part of the yam, 
being an unpractised narrator, as I have already ex- 
plained ; but I may relieve your mind upon one point. 
I never saw Nahemah and the one-eyed man again, 



LURE OF SOULS 215 

nor have I since set eyes upon Hamilton. Mr. Raw- 
lingson, the last time I heard from him, was in 
similar case. 

The explanation of the whole thing was something 
of a blow to me, of course. The lily of Damascus 
who had fascinated me so hopelessly was no Eastern 
at all; you will have guessed as much. She was a 
Frenchwoman, I believe ; at any rate they had a long 
record up against her in Paris. She had gone out 
after Lure of Souls, and very ingeniously had made 
me her instrument. As Mr. Rawlingson explained 
to me, what had probably taken place was this : 

The harmless scorpion, specially brought along for 
eome such purpose, had been thrown into the chief 
officer's cabin from the open porthole by the one- 
eyed villain. That had been the cue for Nahemah 
to drop the shirt button, and, whilst the occupants 
of the cabin were in confusion, to toss the diamond 
out on to the deck where her accomplice was waiting. 
The search of their effects had been futile, of course ; 
no one had thoughts of searching the eye-cavity of 
her Eastern companion. 

Where did Hamilton come in? Hamilton was one 
James Farland, an American crook of the highest 
accomplishments, known to the police of the entire 
civilized world. He, too, had gone out for Lure of 
Souls, but the woman, his professional competitor, 
had proved too clever for him. 

The Rev. Mr. Rawlingson? He was Detective- 
Lispector Wexford of New Scotland Yard. Yes, 
it's a rotten story, from a romantic point of view. 



in 

THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 

I 

MUSTAPHA MIRZA knew it— Mustapha 
Mirza, the blind Persian who makes shoes 
hard by the Bab ez-Zuwela and in the very 
shadow of the minarets of Muayyad; Hassan es- 
Siwa of the Street of the Carpet-sellers in the Muski, 
Hassan, who, where another man has hands, has 
but hideous stumps, knew it, and because of him it 
was that Abdul Moharli sought it — Abdul the men- 
dicant who crouches on the steps of the Blue Mosque 
muttering, guttural, inarticulate, and pointing to the 
tongueless cavity of his mouth. Now I know it ; but 
not from Abdul Moharli: may Allah, the Great, the 
Compassionate, defend me! 

I say *^May Allah defend me," yet I am no Mos- 
lem ; I have no spot of Egyptian blood in my veins. 
No, I am a pure Greek of Cos, of Cos the home of the 
loveliest women in the world; and my mother was 
one of these, whilst my father was a Cretan, and a 
true descendent of Minos. My story perhaps will 
not be believed, for always it has been my fate to 
be maligned. You will ask, perhaps, what I was 
doing in the Mazi Desert between Beni Suef and the 
Red Sea, but I reply that my cotton interests — ^for 
I have cotton interests in the Delta — often lead 

216 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 21V 

me far afield. You do not understand the cotton in- 
dustry or this explanation would be unnecessary. 
It is only those who do not understand the cotton 
industry that speak of hashish. Hashish! I leave 
it to the Egyptians and the Jews to deal in hashish; 
I am neither a Jew nor an Egyptian, but a Greek of 
Cos, who would not soil his hands with such a trade 
— ^no. 

Upon my business, then, my legitimate business, 
I found myself with a small company of servants 
encamped by the Wadi Araba. At the Wadi Araba 
I had a commercial acquaintance, a sheikh of the 
Mazi Arabs. Those villains who say that he was a 
** go-between," that my business was not with him, 
but through him with a port of the Red Sea, dare 
not say as much to my face; for there is a law in 
the land — even in the land of Egypt, now that the 
British hold power here. 

I had reached the point, then, whereat it was my 
custom to meet my business acquaintance and to 
discuss certain affairs in which we were interested. 
My servants had erected the tent in which I was to 
sleep, and the camels lay in a little limestone valley 
to the west, their eyes mild because they knew that 
the day's work was ended; for it is a foolish mistake 
to suppose that the eye of a camel is mild at any 
other time. The camel knows the secret name of 
Allah — and that name is Rest. 

The violet after-glow, which is the most wonder- 
ful thing in Nature, crowned the desert with glory 
right away to the porphyry mountains. I stood at 



218 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

my tent door looking westward to the Nile. I stood 
looking out upon the waste of the sands, the eternal 
sands which are a belt about Egypt ; and my thoughts 
running fleetly before me, crossed the desert, crossed 
the Nile, and came to rest in the verdant, fertile 
Faylim, its greenness sweet to look upon in the heat 
of such an evening, its palms fashioned in ebony 
black against the wondrous sky. Yes, I, who am a 
Greek, love the Fayum more than any spot on earth; 
the modem clamor and dust of Cairo are hateful to 
me, although my business often takes me there, and 
also to Alexandria, the most European city in the 
East, and to me the most detestable. But my busi- 
ness is in the Delta and it is a good business, so why 
should I complain? 

I stood at my tent door, and I thought of many 
things, though little of the matters which had brought 
me there; a faint cool breeze fanned my brow, and 
about me was that great peace which comes to Egypt 
with the touch of night. My servants were silent in 
their encampment, and the shrieking of the camels 
had ceased. About me, then, all was sleeping; only 
I was awake, only I was there to receive Abdul 
Moharli and his secret — the secret of Ismail. 

By the pattering of his bare feet upon the sand, 
I first learned of his coming, but for a long time I 
could not see him, for his way led him through the 
valley where the camels slept, and a mound obscured 
my view. But presently I heard his panting breaths 
and his little delirious cries of fear, which were like 
sobs, and presently, again, I saw him staggering 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 219 

over the slope. At the sight of me he uttered one 
last gasping cry and fell forward on his face uncon- 
scious — like a dead man. 

I hurried to him, stooped and raised him. His 
face was dreadful to look upon. His eyes were 
sunken in his skull, and his flesh shrivelled as by 
long fasting. His beard was filthy, knotted and 
unkempt, and his hair a black mat streaked with 
dirty gray. He was thin as a mummy and the bones 
protruded through his skin. He was as one who is 
dying from excess of hashish. 

Ah! I know how they look, those poor fools who 
poison themselves with the Indian hemp. I wonder 
Allah does not strike do^vn the villain who places 
that poison within their reach. I use the term 
'* Allah '* because my business brings me much in 
contact with the natives, but I am no Moslem, as I 
have related. Father Pierre of Alexandria can tell 
you how devoted a Christian I am. 

Drink and food revived him somewhat; and as I 
sat beside him in my tent that night he babbled to 
me, half deliriously; he raved, and to another it 
might have seemed the fancies of a poor madman 
which he poured into my ears. For he spoke of a 
secret oasis and of a sheikh who had lived since the 
days of Sultan Kalaun; of a treasure vast as that of 
Suleyman — and of magic, black magic; of the trans- 
muting of gold and the making of diamonds. 

But I, who am a Greek, and one who has lived all 
his life between Alexandria and the Red Sea; I who 
know the Garden ^^ E-^yiit as another knows the 



220 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

palm of his hand — I detected in this delirium the 
shadow of a truth. To me it became evident that 
this wretched being who had fled, a hunted thing, 
over the trackless desert for many days and nights 
— it became evident to me, I say, that he spoke of 
the far-famed secret of Ismail. 

You would ask: What is the secret of Ismail? 
I would tell you, ask it of Hassan the Handless, of 
Mustapha, the blind Persian of the Bab ez-Zuwela; 
better still, ask it of any son of the Fayiim, of any 
man of the Llazi. None of them will answer you, 
for none save Hassan and Mustapha knows the 
strange truth — Hassan and Mustapha, and Abdul 
Moharli . . . and no one of these three knows all, 
nor will reveal what he knows. 

Ah! how my heart leapt and how my eyes must 
have gleamed in the darkness of the tent, yet how 
^old a fear clutched at the life within me. The night 
seemed suddenly to become a thin curtain veiling 
eyes that watched, the empty desert a hiding-place 
for unseen multitudes that listened ; the faint breeze 
raising the flap of the tent, ever so gently, ever so 
softly, assumed the shape of a malignant hand that 
reached for my throat, that sought to stifle me ere 
the secret, the deathly secret of Ismail should be 
mine. 

Abdul Moharli was the name of this wanderer; 
and as he spoke to me, gulping down great draughts 
of water between the words, ever he glanced to righ^ 
and left, over his shoulder and all about him, 

**It is four days from here/' he whispered hoarse- 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 221 

ly; **due south in the direction of the porphyry 
quarries and the Mountain of Smoke. There is a 
tiny village and all the inhabitants are of the race 
of Said Ebn al As, being descendants of the com- 
panion of the prophet. I had long supposed that this 
race of heretics was extinct; but it is not so, my 
benefactor; with these eyes, have I seen the houses 
wherein they dwell. By the strategy of which I have 
spoken did I penetrate to their secret dwelling-place 
and win their unsuspecting love." 

And then, clutching me to him with his bony 
hands, he spoke in hushed and fearful tones of the 
house of the Sheikh Ismail Ebn al As. It was the 
fabled treasure of this holy man which had been the 
lodestone drawing Abdul Moharli out into the desert. 
Something of his fear, of his constant apprehension 
seized upon me too; and as he glanced trem}>'ingly 
first over this shoulder and then over that, so like- 
wise did I glance, until I seemed to crouch in a world 
of spies listening to a secret greater than that of the 
Universe. 

I pronounced the Takhtr, ** Great is the Lord!'' 
—a superstitious custom which I have acquired from 
my business acquaintances. I made the sign of the 
Cross and called upon the name of the Holy Virgin. 
Almost I feared to listen further, yet I lacked the 
courage to abstain. 

**Not with mine eyes have I beheld the treasure 
of Ismail,'' he whispered to me, this shadow of a 
man, this living mummy, those same eyes rolling in 
thair sunken sockets; **nor with mine ears have I 



222 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

heard it named. These hands have never touched 
it ; yet the secret of Ismail is my secret. * ' 

So far he had proceeded and no further, when a 
slight noise, that was not of my imagination, came 
from immediately outside the tent. On the instant 
I sprang forth . . . but no one was there and nothing 
now disturbed the solitude of the desert about me. 
A moment I stood, peering to left and right, into 
the void of the velvet dusk ; no more than a moment, 
I can swear, yet long enough for that dreadful thing 
to happen — that thing which sometimes haunts my 
dreams. 

Shrill and awful upon the silence it burst; the 
scream of a stricken man. It stabbed me like a 
knife; and as a creature of clay I stood, unable to 
stir or think. It died away, in a long wail of pain, 
that gave place to a guttural, inarticulate babbling 
— a choking, sobbing sound indescribable, but that 
may not be forgotten once it has been heard. 

No living thing, as I can tesitfy, entered or lef^ 
the tent ; so far the evidence of my senses bears me. 
But that one had entered and left it, unseen, I 
learned, when, throwing off this palsy of horror, I 
staggered back to the side of the one who knew the 
secret of Ismail. 

He lay writhing upon the ground; blood issued 
from his mouth. The tongue of Abdul Moharli had 
been torn out ! 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 225 



Three weeks later I had my first sight of the 
secret oasis. The fate from which Ahdul had fled 
had overtaken him as I have related, in my tent^ 
and from that moment until we parted company — 
for this poor wretch survived his mutilation — not 
another hint could I glean from him respecting the 
discovery for which he had paid so terrible a price. 

In the first place, he lacked the accomplishment 
of writing and in the second place his fear of the 
vengeance of Ismail had become a veritable mad- 
ness. I left him at Beni Suef, filled with a determi- 
nation to probe this mystery for myself. Suitably 
prepared for such an undertaking I set out alone 
from Der Byad, and undertook the four days' jour- 
ney which I had planned. 

In a little gorge, arid, shadeless, in which only a 
few stunted tamarisks grew, but affording a sort 
of hiding-place for myself and my camel, I made 
my base of operations. Provisions of a sort I had 
plenty, but for water I must depend on the secret 
oasis, which I estimated to be not more than four 
miles distant. In the dead of night I set out, making 
for a series of mounds or hillocks rising up from the 
rocky face of the plateau. Cautiously I ascended 
their slopes, ever watchful and with eagerly beating 
heart ; and it was lying prone upon the crest of the 
greatest of these that I first saw the village and 
the oasis. 

There was nothing extraordinary in the appear- 



224 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

ance of the village ; it presented to the eye the usual 

group of small, squat houses clinging to the trunks 
of the pahn trees and surrounding a shrine or 
mosque boasting a wooden minaret. There were 
tilled fields and palm groves to the left of the 
village and a large house surrounded by white walls 
embracing extensive gardens. My spirits rose high. 
Within that house lay the secret of Ismail. 

I determined to approach from the left, where I 
should be able to take advantage of the far-cast 
shadows of the palm groves and of the direction of 
the faint breeze; for most of all I feared the dogs, 
without which no Arab village is complete. Sure 
enough, although I had elected to approach the left 
of the village and although I crawled laboriously 
upon hands and knees, the accursed brutes appar- 
ently scented me or heard me and made night hideous 
with their clamor. 

Flat upon the ground I lay, awaiting the dogs 
who bore down upon me snarling, their fangs bared. 
I had come prepared for this; but, mysteriously, 
at a point by the end of the palm grove and some 
twenty yards away from me, the pack halted, and 
after a time became silent. This was unaccountable 
but fortunate; and after waiting a while longer to 
learn if anyone had been aroused by the outcry, I 
advanced towards the wall of the garden, passing 
stealthily from palm to palm. 

I observed that the mosque was a more important 
building than I had supposed, with a tomb on the 
right of the entrance surmounted by a white dome. 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 225 

iA. passage leading to the courtyard, which presented 
a charming picture in the moonlight, its fountain 
overshadowed by acacias, reminded me very much 
of that in the Mosque of Muayyad in Cairo. As in 
i'he latter, a double arcade surrounded it on three 
sides and the columns were of some kind of marble 
and sculptured with inscriptions in Arabic. I had 
a glimpse of a blue- tiled sanctuary, through a fine 
mushrabiyeh screen beneath the pointed arches. 
Arabesques in colored glass rendered the windows 
very beautiful to look upon. Nothing stirred within 
the village, as I crept along the narrow lane separat- 
ing the mosque from the wall of the garden. Beyond 
prospecting the ground, I had no definite plans for 
to-night ; but Fate had willed it that I was to become 
laore deeply involved in the affair than I had de- 
signed or intended. 

A side door opened from the garden at a spot 
nearly opposite the little wooden platform which 
served as the minaret of the mosque; and the mud 
bricks of the porch were so broken and decayed 
by time that I perceived here an opportunity of 
mounting to the top of the wall, an opportunity of 
which I instantly availed myself. 

Yes, in spite of my peaceful calling (I have ex- 
plained that I have cotton interests in the Delta) 
my life has not been unadventurous nor have I 
ever hesitated to incur risk where profit might be 
gained. Therefore, having climbed to the top of 
the wall, unmolested, and perceiving at a spot some 
little distance to the right a sort of trellis overgrown 



226 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

with purple blossom, I did not hesitate to make for 
it and to descend into the garden. I had just, com- 
pleted the descent, and stood looking cautiously 
about me, when a sound disturbed the silence — a 
sound so entirely unexpected, in that place, at such 
an hour, that it turned my blood cold, bringing to my 
mind all those stories of the black magic for which 
the people of this oasis were famed. 

It was the sound of a woman singing ; and although 
the song she sang was a familiar Arab love song 
and the voice of the singer was sweet, if very mourn- 
ful, the effect, as I have said, was weird to a degree. 

Ashilc yekul Vil hammdm hat le genahdk yom 
(A lover said to a dove, "Lend me your wings for 
a day," etc.) 

Overcoming the fear and astonishment which 
momentarily had deprived me of action, I advanced 
with the utmost caution in the direction from whence 
this mysterious singing seemed to proceed. Passing 
an angle of the house, where the stucco wall ran 
sheerly up to a mushrahiyeh window, I perceived 
before me a smaller, detached building in the form 
of a sort of pavilion. Some fine acacias overhung its 
white and glistening dome, in which were little win- 
dows of colored glass. Concealed in the shadow of 
the house, I stood looking towards this smaller build- 
ing, observing with astonishment that it possessed 
a massive, bronze-mounted door. 

Indeed, in many respects, and in spite of the 
charming picture which its jeweled appearance pre- 
sented, it might well have been the tomb of some holy 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 227 

Sheikh. But seated on an old-fashioned mastdhak 
before the entrance were two huge negroes of most 
ferocious aspect, armed with scimitars which glit- 
tered evilly in the light of the moon! 

I drew back sharply into the shelter of the pro- 
jecting wall. One of the negroes seemed to slumber, 
but the wicked black eyes of his companion were 
widely open and he revealed his ivory teeth in a 
frightful leer. The beating of my heart almost 
suffocated me, for I ascribed that ghastly grimace 
to the fact that the negro had detected my presence 
and was already gloating over the pleasing prospect 
of my swift and bloody despatch. For many 
agonized moments I lurked there, one hand clutching 
the stucco wall and the other resting upon the butt 
of a new Colt magazine pistol which I had taken the 
precaution to purchase in Alexandria a week earlier. 

When again I ventured to protrude my head, I 
learned how groundless my fears had been ; I realized 
that the loathsome contortion of the negro's counte- 
nance represented a smile of appreciation. He was 
listening to the unseen singer whose voice now stole 
Rgain upon the silence of the night! His blubber 
lips drooped open cavemously and his fierce little 
«yes blinked in stupid rapture. 

It appeared to me, now, that the sweet voice pro- 
ceeded from some subterranean place : I thought that 
I was listening to the song of a ginneyeh, I remem- 
bered how the Sheikh Ismail was reputed to be the 
son of an Efreet and an Arabian princess, and to 
tiave lived in that oasis for generations, since tbp 



228 TALEB OF SECRET EGYPT 

reign of the Sultan Mohammed Nasir ibn-Kalaiin, 
who had expelled him from Cairo as a magician. 
He was said to possess the secrets of Geber and of 
Avicenna — the great Ibn Sina of Bokhara ; to possess 
the Philosophers' Stone and the Elixir VitcB. In this 
pavilion with the bronze door I beheld the magician's 
treasure-house, guarded, within, by a ginneyeh and, 
without, by ghouls or black Ef reels! 

You will understand that these childish super- 
stitions sometimes overcome me, because I have lived 
so long among those who believe them; but to me, 
a Greek, possessing the consolation of the true re- 
ligion, it was only momentary, this cold fear which 
belongs to ignorance and is bred in the blood of the 
Moslem but finds no place in the heart of a true 
Christian. 

And now the Fates again took a hand in the 
game. The pack of curs in the distant palm grove 
set up a sudden tempest of sound, so that they 
seemed to have become possessed of a million devils. 
It was a disturbance infinitely louder and more 
prolonged than that with which the dogs had greeted 
my appearance, and I had barely time to throw 
myself flat in the depths of a black and friendly 
shadow ere the two negroes, monstrous in the moon- 
light, passed me silently and trotted off in the direc- 
tion from whence the uproar proceeded. You will 
say, no doubt, that a madness as great as that of the 
dogs possessed me; but because what I tell you is 
true, you must not be surprised to find it strange. 

Allowing the negroes time to reach the gate for 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 229 

which I divined them to be making, I ran across 
the moon-bathed garden to the door of the pavilion. 

You must understand that my madness was not 
entirely without method; for I had a vague plan 
in my mind: it was to ascertain the character of 
the lock upon the bronze door (for you must know 
that I am skilled in the craft of the locksmith), and 
then, passing beyond the pavilion, which I was 
assured was the treasure-house of Ismail, to make 
my escape over the garden wall at some point to 
the west and return to my base in the desert ravine 
armed with a knowledge of the enemy's dispositions. 

But, as I have said, the Fates took a hand. The 
sweet-voiced singer ceased her song as I approached 
the pavilion; and, at the moment that I set foot 
upon the lower step, her voice — by Allah! whose 
Name be exalted, it was sweet as honey ! — addressed 
to me these words : 

**0 my master, at last thou art come I Here is 
the key! enter ere they return." 

Whilst I stared blankly upward to the open lattice 
from whence the invisible speaker thus addressed 
me, an antique key wrapped in a piece of perfumed 
silk, fell almost upon my head! 



m 

Dazed though I was by the complete unexpected- 
ness of this happening I doubt if I should have had 
the temerity to pursue the matter further that night 



230 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

but for the sound of fleetly running footsteps of 
which at this moment I became aware. 

My escape was cut off! If I endeavored to pass 
around the pavilion in accordance with my original 
plan I should undoubtedly be perceived. My only 
hope lay in accepting the invitation so singularly 
given. With trembling hands I fitted the key to 
the cumbersome lock, opened the door, and entered 
the pavilion. My presence of mind had not com- 
pletely deserted me and before closing the door I 
withdrew the key. 

I found myself in a saloon of extraordinary mag- 
nificence, furnished with mattresses covered with 
silk and lighted by hanging lamps and by candles, 
and having at its upper end a couch of alabaster 
decorated vnth. pearls and canopied by curtains of 
satin peacock-blue. From a carved wooden archway 
draped with cloth of gold there leaped forth a girl 
of such surpassing loveliness that her image must 
forever reside in my heart together with those of 
the saints. 

Conceive all the dark-eyed beauties of Oriental 
poetry, of Hafiz, of Omar, of Attar, and from each 
distil the very essence of female loveliness; though 
you combine them all in one rapturous vision of 
delight you will have conceived but a feeble shadow 
of shadows of this wondrous reality who now stood 
panting before me, her red lips parted and her bosom 
tumultuous. 

I think if the light in her eyes had been for me 
I could gladly have died for her and found death 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 231 

sweet; but as her gaze met mine a pitiful change 
took place in that lovely countenance. Her color 
fled and she swayed and almost fell. 

**0h," she whispered, **thou art not my beloved! 
O Allah ! this is some snare that Ismail hath set for 
my feet I Who art thouf who art thouT' 

But because of the excess of the loveliness of the 
speaker, from whom I could not remove my eyes, 
and because as I stood in that perfumed apartment 
it seemed to me that I was no longer a real man, but 
a figment of some Ef reefs dream, I found myself 
incapable of both speech and action. 

Yet I was speedily to know that the Fates, which 
had thrust me into that saloon — ^nay, which had 
brought me across the desert to that secret oasis — 
were not yet wearied of their sport. 

A soft call, a lover's signal (for no true Believer 
will whistle at night, since to do so is to summon the 
evil ginn) sounded from immediately outside the 
bronze door, followed by a muffled rapping upon 
the door itself! 

**Said, my beloved!" cried the girl wildly, and 
ran towards the door. 

At that very moment, and whilst I stood there 
like a man of clay, I heard the negro guardians 
returning to their posts ; I heard the clatter of their 
sandals and I heard their guttural cries of rage! 
Uttering a long tremulous sigh, the beautiful occu- 
pant of the pavilion fell swooning upon the floor. 

A loud imperious voice now rose above the sounds 
of conflict which had commenced outside the paviKon ; 



•232 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

I heard the sound of many running feet, and — ^my 
blood turned to ice — that of a key being inserted 
in the lock of the bronze door ! Power of action re- 
turned to me, though I confess that I now grew sick 
with dread. Only one hiding-place was possible : the 
first I could reach. 

I leaped across the lovely form extended upon the 
floor and dropped, almost choking with emotion, be- 
hind the alabaster couch. I had barely gained this 
cover when the door was hurled open and a tall, 
excessively gaunt, and hawk-faced old man entered, 
his eyes blazing, his thin nostrils quivering, and his 
lean hands opening and closing at his sides in a sort 
of clutching movement horribly suggestive and 
terrifying. 

He was followed by the two negroes, who were 
dragging between them a young Egyptian of pre- 
possessing appearance down whose pale face blood 
was pouring from a wound in the brow. 

Several other persons, principally servants of the 
harem, brought up the rear. 

Towering over the recumbent body of the girl, 
the terrible old man — in whom I could not fail to 
recognize the Sheikh Ismail — glared down at her 
for some moments in passionate silence; then he 
made as if to spurn her with his foot; then he 
clutched his long white beard with both hands and 
plucked at it f renziedly, whilst tears began to course 
down his furrowed cheeks, which had the frightful 
appearance of those of a mummy. 

**0 light of mine eyes!*' he exclaimed; **0 shame 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 233 



99 



of my house ! reproach of my white hairs !' 

He recovered himself by dint of a stupendous 
effort and turning a fiery glance upon the captive : 

**Cast him down upon the floor,'' he cried, *Hhat 
I may spit upon him, who is a scorn among swine 
and the son of a disease!" 

To my unspeakable horror, the Sheikh then strode 
across the saloon and seated himself upon the 
alabaster couch! I almost choked with fear; I felt 
my teeth beginning to chatter and the beating of my 
heart sounded in my ears like the throb of a 
darahukeh. The Sheikh, fortunately ignorant of my 
proximity, thus addressed the unfortunate young 
man who lay at his feet : 

''Know, O disgrace of thy mother, that thy death 
hath been decided upon, and it shall visit thee in a 
most painful and unfortunate manner. O thou spawn 
of offal, learn that I have been aware of thy male- 
volent intentions since first thou didst seek to pene- 
trate into my secret. What! am I heir to all the 
wisdom of the ages, that I should remain ignorant 
of the presence of such as thee, thou gnat's Qgg, 
in my house? When the partner in thine infamy 
didst steal the key of the door from me, thinkest thou 
that mine eyes were blind to the theft, thou fore- 
doomed carrion? It was in order that thy culpability 
should be made manifest that I permitted thee to 
enter. Thy double stratagem for quelling and then 
exciting the dogs, in order that the guards might be 
drawn from their posts, was known to me, and the 
negroes had received my orders to run to the gate 



234 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

in seeming accordance with thine accursed desires, 

filthy insect!" 

Throughout the time that this dreadful old man 
thus addressed his victim, the latter crouched upon 
the floor, apparently paying no heed to his words^ 
but keeping an agonized glance fixed upon the lovely 
form of the girl. I was now in a condition of such 
profound and dejected fear as I had never known 
before and trust I may never know again. The 
Sheikh continued: 

** Learn of the fate of some of those who sought 
the secret of Ismail before thee. One there was, 
Mustapha Mirza, a Persian, who came hither to de- 
spoil me. With his eyes did he behold my treasure. 
To-day he hath no eyes! And there was one Hassan 
of the Khan Khalil. He dared to lay violent hands 
upon the treasure of my house — the 'treasure' not 
of gold nor jewels but of fairest flesh and blood. 
To-day he hath no hands! Wouldst like to know of 
Abdul Moharli, who learned much of this '^ secret" 
of mine, and would have spoken of it? His tongue 

1 threw to the carrion crows! Thou, sink of 
iniquity, hast not only seen with thine eyes, heard 
with thine ears and laid thy filthy hands upon the 
treasure of Ismail; thou hast approached thy foul 
lips to this peach of Allah's garden! thou hast ..." 

He choked in his utterance and seemed upon the 
point of hurling himself upon the young man before 
him: but again he recovered his composure after 
a great effort and proceeded: 

**The unpleasant punishments visited upon those 



THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 235 

others shall likewise fall to thy portion, since thou 
hast committed like crimes; but this shall only be 
in order to prepare thee for a most protracted and 
painful death. Bear him forth into the courtyard." 

As one who dreams an evil dream, I saw the com- 
pany stream out of the saloon, the wretched prisoner 
in their midst. When at last the bronze door was 
reclosed and I found myself alone with the swooning 
girl, I could scarce believe that even this respite was 
mine. 

I offered a prayer to St. Antony of the Thebaid — 
my patron saint — as I listened to the sound of their 
receding footsteps; when I was aroused from the 
lethargy of fear into which I had fallen by a distant 
scream — a long wailing cry. . . . 

I have often asked myself: How did I make my 
escape from that dreadful village? You will re- 
member that I had the purloined key of the bronze 
door in my possession? Then it was to this in the 
first place that I owed my preservation. To regain 
the garden was a simple matter, for the Sheikh and 
his bloodthirsty following were engaged in the court- 
yard of the house, but to St. Antony be all praise for 
the circumstance that the little door opposite the 
mosque had been left open — possibly by the unhappy 
Said, — and to St. Antony be all praise that a second 
time I avoided the dogs. . . . 

Dawn found me staggering down into that friendly 
ravine which sheltered my camel. I was utterly ex- 
hausted, for I bore a burden, but triumphant, deliri- 



236 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

ons with joy and rapture, because my burden was so 
sweet. You may question me of these matters, and I 
shall reply: As well as my cotton interests I have 
now another interest in the Delta — the lovely 
' ' Secret ' ' of the Sheikh Ismail Ebn al As !* 



• Readers of Tales of Alii Tal)dh will recognize Mizmiiiia, "The 
Lady of the Lattice," the storj of whoso recovery by the bereaved 
SheJJdi has already been related! 



IV 

HAR0N PASHA 



I WILL tell you this story (said Ferrier of the 
Egyptian Civil) with one reservation; com- 
ments are to be reserved for some future time. 
I can only tell you what I saw with my own eyes 
and heard with my own ears ; I offer no explanation ; 
I pass on the story ; you can take it or leave it. 

Some of you will remember Dunlap — I don't mean 
Bobert Dunlap, who is chief officer of the Pekin, 
l^ut Jack Dunlap his cousin, the irrigation man who 
»sed to be stationed at Assuan. 

You remember the build of the beggar? — the im- 
pression ef scaffolding his figure conveyed? I al- 
ways used to think of him as an iron framework, 
and he had the most hard-bitten head-piece I have 
ever struck; steel blue eyes and a mouth that was 
born shut. The dash of ginger in his hair, com- 
plexion, and constitution made up a Scotch brew that 
was very strongly flavored. 

He came down to Cairo one spring, and a lot of us 
got together in the club — on a Sunday night, I 
remember, it was. The conversation got along 
that silly line; what we were all doing, and why 
we were doing it, what we had really intended to 
do, and how Fate had butted in and made sailors 

237 



238 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

of those that had meant to be parsons, engineers 
of the poets, and tramps of the chaps who had pro- 
posed to become financiers. 

Well, we had traveled up and down this blind 
alley for hours, I should think, when Dunlap mounted 
on his hind legs and took the rug with the proposi- 
tion that nothing — nothing — ^was impossible of 
achievement to the man of single purpose. Some- 
one put up an extreme case; asking Dunlap how 
he should handle the business of the son of a respect- 
able greensrrocer who, with singleness of purpose, 
proposed to become king of England. 

He said it was not a fair case, but he accepted 
the challenge; and the way this junior greengrocer, 
under Dunlap 's guidance, plunged into politics, got 
elected M.P., wormed himself into the confidence of 
the entire Empire by a series of brilliant campaigns 
conducted from John o' Groats to Van Di emeu's 
Land; induced the reigning monarch, publicly, to 
advocate his own abdication; established a sort of 
commonwealth with his ex-Majesty on the board and 
Dunlap occupying a post between that of a protectot 
and a Roman Caesar — well, it was wonderful. 

Of course, you can judge of the lateness of the 
hour from the fact that a group of moderately intel- 
ligent men tolerated, and contributed to, a chat of 
this nature. But what brings me down to the story 
is the few words which I exchanged with Dunlap at 
the break-up of the party, when he was leaving. 

His cousin Robert, as you know, is well on the 
rippity side ; but Jack, with all his fine capamty for 



HARtJN PASHA 23SI 

heather-dew, had always struck me as something of 
a psahnster. I Ve heard that Bacchus holds the keys 
of truth, and it may be right; for out on the steps 
of the club, I said to Jack Dunlap : 

*^It seems you don't practise what you preach?" 

** Don't I?" he snapped hardly. **What do you 
suppose I am doing here ? ' ' 

** Engineering, I take it. Do you aspire to a pede- 
stal beside De LessepsI" 

**De Lesseps be damned!" he retorted sourly. 
**Look at these." 

He held out his hands, hardened with manual toil 
— the hands of a grinder. 

** Clearly you are a glutton for work," I said. 

**I am aiming at never doing another hand's stroke 
in my life," he replied, with an odd glint in his blue 
eyes. **My idea of life — life, mind you, not mere 
existence — is to be a pasha — one of the old school, 
with gate porters, orange trees, fountains, slaves, 
mosaic pavements, a marble bath. ' ' 

He mixed his ambitions oddly. 

** Someone to do all the shifting for me, and even 
the thinking ; to hold a book in front of me if I wanted 
to read, to poke my pipe in my mouth, and to take 
it out when I wanted to blow smoke rings — and to 
know when I wanted it taken out without being told. ' ' 

**0n your showing, you are traveling by the 
wrong road. ' ' 

^*Am I!" he snapped viciously. **Just wait 
awhile. ' ' 

That wac all the indication I had of Dunlap 's 



240 TALES OF SECRET EGFYPT 

ideas, and remembering the time of night and other 
circumstances, I did not count upon it worth a brass 
farthing ; putting it down to the heather-dew rather 
than to any innate viciousness of the man. But 
listen to the sequel, which shifts us up just about 
twelve months, to the spring of the following year, 
in fact. 



I had seen no more of Dunlap, and concluded 
that he was back in Assuan, or somewhere on the 
river, foozling mth his irrigation again. I never 
had the clearest conception of the work of his depart- 
ment, by the way. An irrigation man once started 
to explain to me about his section, mixing up survey- 
ing paraphernalia in his talk, telling me something 
about an allowance of half an inch variation in half 
a mile of bank, or chat to that effect; but I couldn't 
quite make it out. My impression of Dunlap at 
business was very hazy; I pictured him measuring 
the bank of the Nile with a six-foot rule, and peri- 
odically kneeling down in the smelly mud to footle 
with a spirit-level. But he was a Senior Wrangler, 
as you remember, and a man, too, of more substantial 
accomplishments, and he drew five hundred a year 
from the Egyptian Government; so that probably I 
underestimated his usefuhiess. 

At any rate, I had forgotten his iron framework 
and mahogany countenance, together with his re- 
sponse (under the afflatus of heather-dew) at the 
time of which I am now speaking. 



HARCtN pasha 241 

A little matter had cropped up which touched me 
on a weak spot ; and with a mob of jabbering Egyp- 
tians and one very placid Bedouin flooding my room, 
I found myself thinking again of Dunlap and envy- 
ing him his intimate acquaintance with Arabic. 

Although I had been in the country quite twice 
as long as Dunlap, my Arabic was far from perfect, 
for I have always been a rotten linguist. Dunlap, 
as I now remembered, might have passed for a native 
(excepting his Scottish headpiece), and I ascribed 
his proficiency to an inherent trick of mimicry. 
There was something of the big ape about him ; and 
after one function at which we both were present, 
I remember how he convulsed the entire club with 
an imitation of a certain highly placed Egyptian 
dignitary, voice and gesture being equal in comic 
effect to Cyril Maude at his best. In fact, if you 
notice, you will find that the best linguists, as a rule, 
have a marked apish streak in their composition. 

Well, here was I at my wits' ends to grasp twenty 
points of view at one and the same time; no two 
expressed in quite the same dialect, and each orator 
more excited than another. You know the brutes ? 

That got me thinking of Dunlap, and even after 
the incident was closed, I found myself thinking 
of him. Some friends from home were staying at 
Shepheard's, and of course they had claimed me as 
dragoman; not that I objected in the least, for one 
of the party — when it was possible to dodge her 
mother — was, well, a very agreeable companion, you 
understand. 



242 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

On this particular morning we were doing the 
l)azaars. I have found by comparison that the 
average tourist knows far more of the Muski than 
the average resident; in the same way, I suppose 
that for information regarding the Tower of London 
or the British Museum, one must go, not to a Cock- 
ney, but to an American visitor. At any rate, my 
party told me more than I could tell them, and my 
job degenerated into that of a mere interpreter. In 
the matter of purchases, I possibly saved them 
money, but their knowledge of the wares was miles 
ahead of my own. These up-to-date guide books 
must be very useful reading, I think. 

Although I had tried hard to rush them past that 
dangerous quarter, the Goliargiya, the ladies of the 
party had discovered a shop where little trays of 
loose gems, turquoises, rubies, bits of lapis-lazuli, 
and so forth, were displayed snarefully. 

After that I knew where I could find them up to 
any time before lunch ; I knew they were safe enough 
for the rest of the morning ; and accepting my defeat 
at the hands of the jewel merchant who turned his 
slow eyes upon me and shrugged apologetically, I 
drifted off, after a decent interval (leaving young 
Forrest, who, mysteriously, had turned up, to do the 
cavalierly), intending to visit my acquaintance, 
Hassan, in the Suh el-Attdi'in (Street of the Per- 
fumers), not twenty yards away. 

You know Hassan? A large, mysterious figure 
in the shadows of his little shop, smoking amber- 
scented cigarettes as though he liked them, and turn- 



HARON PASHA 24» 

ing his sleepy eyes slowly upon each passer-by. "Well, 
I drifted around in his direction. 

Right at the corner of the street, a big limousine 
was standing; an up-to-date car, fawn cushions, sil- 
ver-plated fittings, and simply stuffed with fresh-cut 
flowers. A useful-looking Nubian was chauffeur, and 
on the step squatted a fat and resplendent being in 
all the glory of much gold braid. 

These harem guards are rarely seen in Cairo 
nowadays — they belong to the other picturesque 
Oriental institutions which have begun to fade with 
the cresent of Islam. There was something start- 
lingiy incongruous about this full-grown specimen, 
that bloated representative of Eastern despotism 
squatting on the step of an up-to-date French car. 

It was a kind of all-round shock ; I cannot describe 
how it struck me. It was something like running 
into Martin Luther at the Grand National or Nero, 
say, at an aviation meeting. 

This was a frightfully hot morning, and the 
adipose object on the car step was slumbering bliss- 
fully. A moment later I spotted the charge which 
he was guarding with such sedulous care. She was 
seated in Hassan's shop — well back in the shadows — • 
a gauzy white vision, all eyes and yashmak. A con- 
fidential female servant accompanied her. They 
made a pleasing picture enough, and a more suitable 
setting could not well be found. It was an illustrated 
page of the Arabian Nights, and it appealed strongly 
even to my jaded perceptions. 

Of course, I was not going to interrupt thh 



244 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

tete-a-tete; but from where I stood I could observe 
the group very well whilst remaining myself un- 
observed. It presently became evident that the lady 
of the yashmak, under the pretence of purchasing 
perfumes, was merely killing time, and my interest 
increased as the hour of noon grew near and the 
artistic group remained unbroken. You know the 
Mosque of El-Ashraf by Hassan 's shop ? Its minaret 
almost overhung the place. Well, in due course, 
out popped the mueddin. 

^'La il aha ilia Allah, . . /' 

There he was a very sweet-voiced singer, as I 
noted at the time, telling them there was no God 
but God, and all the rest of it; and presently he 
worked round to the side of the gallery overlooking 
Efe-ssan's shop. 

Then I could see which way the wind blew. He 
seemed to be deliberately singing at the picturesque 
trio — and the dark eyes of the lady of the yashmak 
were lifted upward — in reverence, perhaps; but I 
hardly thought so. 

There was no doubt about the mueddin' s final 
glance, as he turned and retired from the gallery. 
I remained where I was until the yashmak left the 
shop; and as she had to pass quite close to me in 
order to rejoin the waiting car, I had a good look 
at her. 

It was just an impression, of course, an impres- 
sion of red lips under the white gauze, an oval 
Oriental outline, with very fine eyes — ^notably fine, 
where fine eyes are common — and a little exquisitely 



HAECTN PASHA 245 

chiseled nose; a bewitching face. Jnst that one 
glimpse I had and a vague impression of rustling 
eilk with the tap of high heels. A faint breath of 
musk still proclaimed itself above the less pleasing 
odors of the street ; then, the female attendant hav- 
ing cuffed the slumbering Silenus into wakefulness, 
the car moved off and this harem lily vanished 
from the bazaar. 

I knew that my party was safe for another half 
an hour, at any rate, so I nipped along to Hassan *s 
shop. Of course, he began brazenly by declaring 
that no ladies had been there that morning. I 
had expected it, and the attitude confirmed my 
euspicions. 

Presently, when his boy had made fresh coffee, 
and Hassan, from the black cabinet, had produced 
eome real cigarettes, we got more intimate. There 
Was a scarcity of European visitors that morning; 
and excepting one interruption by a party of four 
American ladies, I had Hassan to myself for half 
an hour. 

He raised his fat finger to his lips when I pressed 
my question, and rolled his eyes fearfully. 

**She is from the palace of Harun Pasha,'' he 
whispered with more sidelong glances. **Ah! 
effendim, I fear. . . . 

We smoked awhile ; then — 

**The Pasha's wife?" I inquired. 

**It is the Lady Zohara," he said. 

This did not add greatly to my information; but 
I continued; **And the mueddinf" 



246 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

*'AhI — do not whisper it. . . . That is my brother, 
Said!'' 

*'He raises his eyes very high!" 

*'Not so, effendim; it is she who raises her eyes. 
I fear — I fear for Sai'd. The Pasha . . . you have 
heard of him?" 

^*I may have heard his name," I replied; **but 
I am quite unfamiliar with his reputation. ' ' 

Hassan shook his head gloomily. 

**He is the last of his race," he explained; **the 
race of the Khalifs. He inhabits the ancient palace 
— ^but much has been rebuilt, and much added — in 
Old Cairo, close behind the Coptic Church. ..." 

**I did not know that such a palace even existed." 

Again Hassan raised his finger to his lips. 

**He is not like the other pashas," he said; **in 
the house of Harun Pasha are observed to-day all 
the old customs as in the day of his great ancestor 
Harun al-Raschid." 

**But a motor-car!" 

**Ah, effendim, he does not scorn to employ 
modem comforts, nor do I mean that he is a strict 
Moslem. But you saw the one who sat upon the 
step? The harem of the Pasha is well guarded; 
not only by such as he, but by the Nubians and by 
the other mutes." 

'* Mutes!" 

**He has many slaves. His agent in Mecca pro- 
cures for him the pick of the market." 

**But there is no such thing as slavery in 
Egypt!" 



HARtrN PASHA 247 

*'Do the slaves know that, effendimf" he asked 
simply. ** Those who have tongues are never seen 
outside the walls — unless they are guarded by those 
Xv'ho have no tongue!" 

It was a curious sidelight upon a more curious 
possibility and I was much impressed. 

* * Your brother * ' 

**Alas! I have warned him! I fear, most sin- 
cerely I fear, that one dark night the same will befall 
him that befell the son of my cousin, Ali." 

''And what was thatr ' 

*'He climbed the wall of the Pasha's garden. 
There is a fig tree growing close beside it at one 
place. Someone assisted him to descend on the other. 
But he had been betrayed; the Nubian mutes took 
him — and they '* 

He bent and whispered in my ear. 

''Impossible!" I cried — "impossible! hdss! boss I'' 

"Not so, effendim — ^nor was that all. After that 
they " 

"Enough, Hassan, enough!" I cried. '^Ushur!'^ 

Hassan sighed, raising fearful eyes to the minaret. 



m 



There has been nothing you are likely to disbe- 
lieve so far ; but now — ^well, I specified at the begin- 
ning — ^no comments. Let me tell the story in my 
own way, and you have permission to think what you 
please. 

There was a dance at Shepheard's that night, and 



248 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

young Forrest rather interfered with my plans again 
as to one of the members of the English party; I 
think I have referred to her before? That sent me 
home in a bad humor — at least not home; for as I 
was standing over by the Ezbekiyeh Gardens, .won- 
dering whether to go along to ** Jimmy's'' or not, I 
formed a sudden determination to go and have a 
look at the abode of Harun Pasha instead! 

Mind you, I was not surprised to have lived in 
Cairo all these years without having heard of the 
place; I had learned things about the Muski in the 
morning, from my tourist friends, which had re- 
vealed to me something of my pitiable ignorance 
But I was determined to mend my ways, so to speak, 
and I thought I would turn my restless mood to good 
purpose, by improving my knowledge of my neigh- 
bors. 

I induced the torpid driver of an ardbiyeh to 
drive me out to Old Cairo. He obviously consid- 
ered me to be even more demented than the rest of 
my countrymen, but since the fare would be a sub- 
stantial one, he tackled the job. Mad expedition? 
Quite so; but you appreciate the mood? 

After we had passed a certain quarter — a quarter 
which never sleeps — there was nothing livelier than 
decayed tombs en route. In the chill of the evening 
I began to weigh up my own foolishness apprecia- 
tively, but having got so far as the Coptic Church 
— ^you know the church I mean? — I was not going 
back unsatisfied; so I told my man to wait, and 
started off to look for the famous palace. 



HAEON PASHA 249 

I must say the scene was impressive; a sky full 
of diamonds and a moon just bursting with light. 
The liquid night — sounds of the Nile alone disturbed 
the silence, and the buildings might have been made 
of mother-o '-pearl, so flawless and pure did they 
seem, gleaming there under the moon. 

Well, I wandered up some narrow streets — past 
ruins of former important houses, and all that — 
until I found myself in the shadow of a high wall 
which obviously was kept in good repair. I followed 
this for some distance, and I could see trees on the 
other side ; at one place a perfect mat of those purple 
flowers hung over the top; gorgeous things; the 
name begins with a B, but I can never remember it. 
This seemed promising, and as there was not a soul 
in sight, nor, on the visible evidences, a habitable 
building near me, I began to fossick for a likely 
place to climb up. 

Presently I found the spot, and at the same time 
confirmation of my belief that these were the pre- 
cincts of the Pasha. A fig tree grew beside the wall, 
affording an admirable means of reaching the top 
— a natural ladder. In a jiffy I was up . . . and 
overlooking one of the most glorious gardens I had 
ever seen or dreamt of ! 

It must have been planned by an artist simply 
soaked in the lore of the Orient. It set me thinking 
of Edmond Dulac's illustrations to the Arabian 
Nights. Apart from those pages, you never saw 
anything like it, I swear. The position of each tree 
was a study ; the arrangement of the flowerbeds was 



250 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

poetic — thsit is tlie only word for it; there was a 
pond with marble seats around and a flight of steps 
with big copper urns filled with growing flowers, 
mosaic paths, and lesser pools with fountains play- 
ing. I peered down into the water, and the naoon 
rays glittered magically upon the scales of the golden 
carp which darted there. And all this fairy prospect 
was no more than an introduction, as it were, a sort 
of lead-up, to the Aladdin's Palace beyond. 

I saw now that what with pahns and the natural 
rise of the land back from the Nile, the wonderful 
palace, with its terraces and gleaming domes, must 
actually be invisible from all points; a more secret 
locality one could not well imagine. 

As to this magician's abode, which lay before me, 
I shall not attempt to describe it. But turn to the 
illustrations which I have menioned, or to those of 
Burton's big edition; I will leave it to the artist's 
and your imagination to fill up the canvas. 

Lights shone out from a hundred windows. Out 
of the ghostly, tomb-like silence of Old Cairo, I 
had clambered into a sort of fairyland; I stood 
there with the spray from a fountain wetting me, 
and rubbed my eyes. Honestly, I should not have 
been surprised to find myself dreaming. Well, you 
may be sure I was not going back yet; there was 
not a living soul to be seen in the gardens, and I 
meant to have a peep into the palace, whatever the 
chances. 

The likeliest point, as I soon determined, was to 
the west — ^where a long, low wing of the building 



HAEON PASHA 251 

extended, and was lost, if I may use the term, in a 
great bank of verdure and purple blooms. I took 
full advantage of the ample shadow cast by the trees, 
and came right up under the white wall without 
mishap. 

To my right, the wall was obviously modem, but 
to my left, although in the distance and under the 
moon it had seemed uniform, it was built of sand- 
stone blocks and was evidently of great age. The 
palace proper, you understand, was fully forty yards 
east ; the place before me was a sort of low extension 
and evidently had no real connection with the resi- 
dential part. 

Just above my head was a square window, iron- 
barred, but this did not look promising, and cau- 
tiously, for I was hampered by the creepers which 
grew under the wall, I felt my way further west. 
Presently I encountered a pointed door of black, 
time-seared wood, and heavily iron-studded. Then, 
with alarming suddenness, the quietude of my ad- 
venture was broken; things began to move with 
breathless rapidity. 

A most dreadful screaming and howling split the 
stillness and made me jump like a startled frog! 

The sound of a lash on bare flesh reached me from 
some place behind the pointed door. Screams for 
mercy in thick, guttural Arabic, mingled and punc- 
tuated with horrifying shrieks of pain, informed my 
ignorance unmistakably that mediaeval methods yet 
?uled in the civilized Near East. 
Screams and supplications merged into a dull 



252 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

moaning; but the whistle of the lash continued un- 
interruptedly. Then that too ceased, and dimly came 
the sounds of a muffled colloquy; a sort of gurgling 
talk that got me wondering. 

I had just time to creep away and conceal myself 
behind a thick clump of bushes, when the door was 
thrown open, and the most gigantic negro I have 
ever set eyes upon appeared in the opening, out- 
lined against the smoky glare from within. He had 
one gleaming bare arm about the neck of an in- 
sensible man, and he dragged him out into the 
garden as one might drag a heavy sack; dropping 
him all in a quivering heap upon the very spot 
which I had just vacated I 

The negro, who was stripped to the waist and 
"whose glistening body reminded me of a bronze 
statue of Hercules, stood looking down at the insen- 
sible victim, with a hideous leer. I ventured to raise 
myself ever so slightly; and in the ghastly, isweat- 
bedaubed face of the tortured man — whose bare 
shoulders were bloody from the lash — I recognized 
the Silenus of the limousine! 

In response to a guttural inarticulate muttering 
by the black giant, a second Nubiau, of scarcely 
lesser dimensions, emerged from the dungeon with a 
jar of water. He drenched the swooning man, evi- 
dently in order to revive him; and, when the 
wretched being ultimately fought his way back to 
agonized consciousness — to my horror he was seized, 
dragged in through the doorway again, and once 
more I heard the whistle of the lash being applied to 



i 



HARtTN PASHA 2o3 

Mb lacerated back, the skin of which was already 
in ribbons. 

I suppose there are times when the most discreet 
man is snatched outside himself by circumstances? 
The door of this beastly torture-room had not been 
reclosed, and before I could realize what I was about, 
I found myself inside ! 

The wretched victim had been hauled up to a beam 
by his bound wrists, and the huge Nubian was put- 
ting all his strength into the ^vielding of the cat-oV 
nine-tails, drawing blood with every stroke; whilst 
his assistant hung on to the rope running through d 
pulley-block in the low ceiling. 

All in a sort of whirl (I was raving mad with 
indignation) I got amongst the trio, and landed a 
clip on the jaw of the son of Erebus which made hia 
teeth rattle like castanets. 

Down came the fat sufferer all in a heap in his 
own blood. Down went my man, and began to cough 
out broken molars. Then it was my turn; and down 
I went with the second mute on top of me, and the 
pair of us were playing hell all about the blood- 
epattered floor — up, down, under, over — straining, 
punching, kicking . . . then my antagonist introduced 
gouging, and I had to beat the mat. 

It had been a stiff bout, and the stinking shambles 
were whirling about me like a bloody maelstrom. 
When things settled down a bit, I found myself lying 
in a small cell skewered up like a pullet, and with a 
prospect of iron grating and stone-flagged passage 
before me. I was more than a trifle damaged, and 



254 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

my head was singing like a kettle. If I had thonght 
that I dreamed before, it was a struggle now to con- 
vince myself that this was not a nightmare. 

Amid the rattling of chains and dropping of bars. 
a fantastic procession was filing down the passage. 
First came a hideous, crook-backed apparition,*hook- 
nosed, and bearing a lantern. Behind him appeared 
two guards with glittering scimitars. Behind the 
guards walked a fourth personage, black-robed and 
vhite-turbaned — a sort of dignified dragoman, car- 
rying an enormous bunch of keys. 

The iron grating of my dungeon was unlocked and 
raised, and I was requested, in Arabic, to rise and 
follow. Realizing that this was no time for funny 
business, I staggered to my feet, and between the two 
Scimitars marched unsteadily through a maze of 
passages with doors unlocked and locked behind uSj 
stairs ascended and stairs descended. 

From empty passages, our journey led us to pass- 
ages richly carpeted and softly lighted. By a heavy 
door opening on to the first of the latter, we left the 
squinting man; and, with the two Scimitars and 
Black Robe, I found myself crossing a lofty pavilion. 

The floor was of rich mosaic, and priceless carpets 
Were spread about in artistic confusion. Above my 
head loomed a great dome, lighted by stained glass 
windows in which the blue of lapis-lazuli predomi- 
nated. By golden chains from above swung golden 
lamps burning perfumed oil and flooding the pavilion 
with a mellow blue light. There were inlaid tables 
and cabinets; great blue vases of exquisite Chinese 



HARtrN PASHA 255 

porcelain stood in niches of the wall. The walls 
were of that faintly amber-tinted alabaster whiek 
is quarried in the Mokattam Hills; and there wera 
fragile columns of some delicately azure-veinti 
marble, rising, graceful and slender, ethereal ai 
pencils of smoke, to a balcony high above my head; 
then, from this, a second series of fairy columns 
crept in blue streaks up into the luminous shadows 
of the dome. 

We crossed this place, my heel taps echoing hol- 
lowly and before a curtained door took pause. An 
impressive interval of perfumed silence; then in 
response to the muffled clapping of hands, the curtain 
was raised and I was thrust into a smaller apartment 
beyond. 

I found myself standing before a long diwan, 
amid an opulence of Oriental appointment which sur- 
passed anything which I could have imagined. The 
atmosphere was heavy with the odor of burning 
perfumes, and, whereas the lofty pavilion afforded 
a delicate study in blue, this chamber was voluptu- 
ously amber — amber-shaded lamps, amber cushiomi, 
amber carpets ; everywhere the glitter of amber audi 
gold. 

Amid the amber sea, half immersed in the golden 
silks of the dais, reclined a large and portly Sheikh ; 
full and patriarchal his beard, wherein played amber 
tints, lofty and serene his brow, sweeping up to the 
snowy turban. From a mouthpiece of amber and 
gold he inhaled the scented smoke of a narghll. Be- 
hind him, upon a cushioned stool, knelt a femal* 



»6 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

whose beauty of face and form was unmistakable, 
aince it was undisguised by the filmy artistry of 
her attire. With a gigantic fan of peacock's feathers, 
she cooled the Sheikh, and dispersed the flies which 
threatened to disturb his serenity. A second houri 
received in her hands the amber mouthpiece as it fell 
from her lord's lips ; a third, who evidently had been 
playing upon a lute, rose and glided from the apart- 
ment like an opium vision, as I entered between the 
gaardian Scimitars. 

I found myself thinking of Saint Saen's music 
to Samson and Delilah; the barbaric strains of the 
exquisite hacchanale were beating on my brain. 

Black Robe advanced and knelt upon the floor of 
the dtwan, 

**We have brought the wretched malefactor into 
your glorious presence,'* he said. 

The Pasha (for I knew, beyond doubt, that I stood 
before Harun Pasha) raised his eyes and fixed a 
stem gaze upon me. He gazed long and fixedly, and 
an odd change took place in his expression. He 
seemed about to address me, then, apparently chang- 
ing his mind, he addressed the recumbent figure at 
his feet. 

*'Have the slaves returned with the female mis- 
creant and her partner in Satan?" he demanded 
Btemly. 

* * Lord of the age, ' ' replied the other, rising upon 
bla knees, '*they are expected." 

**Let them be brought before me," directed the 
Pasha, **upon the instant of their arrival. Ha« 



HAEtrN PASHA 257 

Misrun confessed his complicity?" 

**He fainted beneath the lash, excellency, but con- 
fessed that he slept — that pig who prayed without 
washing and whose birth was a calamity — on several 
occasions when accompanying the lady Zohara,'' 

"Leave us I" cried the Pasha. *'But, first, unbind 
the prisoner." 

He swept his arm around comprehensively, and 
everyone withdrew from the apartment, including 
the Scimitars (one of whom cut my lashings) and 
the lady of the fan. I found myself alone with 
Hariin Pasha. 

IT 

"Sit here beside me !" directed the Pasha. 

Being yet too dazed for wonder or protest, I 
obeyed mechanically. My exact situation was not 
dear to me at the moment and I was a long way off 
knowing how to act. 

"I am much disturbed in mind, and my bosom is 
contracted," continued the Pasha, with a certain 
benignity, "by reason of a conspiracy in my harem, 
which came to a head this night, and which led to 
the loss of the pearl of my household, a damsel wim 
cost me her weight in gold, who entangled me in tka 
snare of her love and pierced me with anguish. 
Ejiow, young Inglisi, that love is difficult Alaa I 
she who had captivated my reason by her loveliness 
fled with a shame of the Moslems who defamed the 
sacred office of mueddin! In truth he is naught but 
ite fton of a disease and a consort of camels, Mf 



258 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

soul cries out to Allah and my mind is a nest of 
wasps. Relate to me your case, that it may turn me 
from the contemplation of my sorrows. At another 
time, it had gone hard with you, and penalties of a 
most unfortunate description had been visited upon 
your head, disturber of my peace; but since this 
child of filth and progeny of mules has shattered it 
forever, your lesser crime comes but as a diversion. 
B-elate to me the matters which have brought you 
to this miserable pass." 

There was some still little voice in my mind which 
was trying to speak to me, if you understand what 
I mean. But what with the suffocating perfume of 
ambergris (or it may have been frankincense), my 
incredible surroundings, and the buzzing of my mal- 
treated skull, I simply could not think connectedly. 

A memory was struggling for identification in my 
addled brain; but whether it was due to something 
I had seen, heard, or smelled, I could not for the 
life of me make out. I heard myself spinning my 
own improbable yarn as one listens to a dreary and 
boresome recitation; I didn't seem to be the ra- 
conteur ; my mind was busy about that amber room, 
furiously chasing that hare-like memory, which 
leaped and doubled, dived under the silken cushions, 
popped up behind the Pasha, and fiicked its ears at 
me from amid the feathers of the peacock fan. 

I driveled right on to the end of my story, 
mechanically, without having got my mind in proper 
working order; and when the Pasha spoke again — 
there was that wretched memory still dodging me> 



HARtrN PASHA 259 

sometimes almost within my grasp, but always just 
eluding it. 

*^Your amusing narrative has diverted me/' said 
the Pasha ; and he clapped his hands three times. 

It never occurred to me, you will note, to assert 
myself in any way ; I accepted the lordly condescen- 
sions of this singular personage without protest. 
You will be wondering why I didn't kick up a devil 
of a hullabaloo — declare that I had come in response 
to screams for assistance — ^wave the dreaded name 
of the British Agent under the Pasha's nose, and all 
that. I can only say that I didn't; I was subdued; 
in fact I was down, utterly down and out. 

Black Robe entered with eyes averted. 

**Well, wretched vermin!" roared the Pasha in 
sudden wrath; *'do you tell me they are not here?" 

The man, with his head bumping on the carpet, 
visibly trembled. 

*'Most noble," he replied hoarsely, ^*your lowly- 
slave has exerted himself to the utmost " 

**Out! son of a calamity!" shouted the Pasha-— 
and before my astonished eyes he raised the heary 
narghli and hurled it at the bowed head of the man 
before him. 

It struck the white turban with a resounding crack, 
and then was shattered to bits upon the floor. It 
was a blow to have star>'gered a mule. But Black 
Robe, without apparent loss of dignity, rose and de- 
parted, bowing. 

The Pasha sat rocking about, and plucking madly 
at his beard. 



260 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

**0 Allah!" he cried, *'how I suffer" He turned 
to me. ** Never since the day that another of your 
race (but, this one, a true son of Satan) came to my 
palace, have I tasted so much suffering. You shall 
judge of my clemency, imprudent stranger, and 
pacify your heart with the spectacle of another's 
punishment." 

He clapped his hands twice. This time there was 
a short delay, which the Pasha suffered impatiently; 
then there entered the squint-eyed man, together 
with the two Scimitars. 

**I would visit the dungeon of the false Pasha," 
said my singular host; and, rising to his feet, he 
placed his hand upon my shoulder and indicated 
that we were to proceed from the apartment. 

Led by Crook Back, in whose hand the gigantic 
bunch of keys rattled unmelodiously, and followed 
by the Scimitars, we proceeded upon our way; and 
it was beyond the powers of my disordered brain 
to dismiss the idea that I was taking part in a Christ- 
mas pantomime. Many steps were descended ; many 
heavy doors unbolted and unbarred, bolted and 
barred behind us; many stone-paved passages, re- 
minding me of operatic scenery, were traversed ere 
we came to one tunnel more gloomy than the rest. 

Upon the right was a blank stone wall, upon the 
left, a series of doors, black with age and heavily 
iron-studded. The only illumination was that fur- 
nished by the lantern which Crook Back carried. 

Before one of the doors the Pasha paused. 

**In which is Misrun?" he demanded. 



HAECN PASHA 261 

**In the next, excellency/' replied the jailer — for 
such I took to be the office of the hunchback. 

As he spoke, he held the lantern to the grating. 

I found myself peering into a filthy dungeon, the 
reek of which made me ill ; and there, upon the stone 
floor, lay poor SilenusI He raised his eyes to the 
Ught 

**Lord of the age,'' he moaned, lifting his manacled 
Wrists, ** glory of the universe, sun of suns! I have 
confessed my frightful sin, and most dire misfor- 
tunes. Of your sublime mercy, take pity upon the 
meanest thing that creeps upon the earth '* 

* ' Proceed ! ' ' said the Pasha. 

And with the moaning cries of Misrun growing 
fainter behind us, we moved along the passage. Be- 
fore a second door, we halted again, and the jailer 
raised the lantern. 

**Look upon this!" cried the Pasha to me — ^*'look 
well, and look long!" 

Shudderingly I peered in between the bars. It 
had come home to me how I was utterly at the mercy 
of this man's moods. If he had chosen to have me 
hurled into one of his dungeons, what prospect of 
release would have been mine! Who would ever 
know of my plight ? No one ! And beyond doubt I 
was in the realm of an absolute monarch. I silently 
thanked my lucky stars that my lot was not the lot 
of him who occupied this second dungeon. 

As the dim light, casting shadow bars across the 
filthy floor, picked out the features of the prisoner, 
I gave a great start. Save that the beard was more 



262 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT 

gray, longer, filthy and unkempt, and that, in place 
of the nearly shaven sknll, this unhappy being dis- 
played dishevelled locks, the captive might easily 
have passed for the Pasha. 

I met the eye of this terrible despot. 

''Look upon the false Pasha,'' he said; *'look upon 
the one who thought to dispossess me ! For years, 
by his own miserable confession, he studied me in 
secret. When I journeyed to my estates in Assuan'' 
(I started again) '*he was watching — ^watching — 
always watching. His scheme, which was whispered 
into his ear by the Evil One, was no plant of sudden 
growth, but a tree, that, from a seed of Satan planted 
in fertile soil, had flourished exceedingly, tended by 
the hand of villainous ambition. ' ' 

I clutched at the bars for support. The stench 
of the place was simply indescribable; but it was 
neither the stench nor the bizarre incidents of the 
night which accounted for my dizziness : it was the 
sudden tangibility of that hitherto elusive memory. 

In build, in complexion, in certain mannerisms 
underlying the dignified assumption, Harun Pasha 
might well have been the twin brother of Jack 
Dunlap ! 

A frightful possibility burst upon me like a bomb; 
clutching the bars with quivering hands, I stared 
and stared at the wretched impostor in the cell. 
Could it be ? Had he been mad enough to make some 
attempt upon the Pasha? And was this his end? 

I looked around again. I searched the bearded 
features of the Pasha with eager gaze. Good God! 



HARCN PASHA 263 

either I was going mad, or incredible things had 
been done, were being done, in Cairo. 

I had not seen Dunlap for a year, remember, and 
in the ordinary way I did not see him more than half 
a dozen times in twelve months, so that, all things 
considered, it was not so remarkable that I had over- 
looked the resemblance. A full beard and mustache, 
artificially darkened eyelashes, a shaven head and a 
white turban, are effectual disguises ; but if you can 
imagine Dunlap — the Dunlap you remember — so 
arrayed, then you have Harun Pasha. Imagine 
Harun Pasha, dirty, bedraggled, a hopeless cap- 
tive . . . and you have the prisoner who crouched 
upon the straw in that noisome dungeon ! 

For the second time that night I was lifted out of 
myself. I turned on the man beside me in a blazing 
fury. 

**You villain!^' I shouted at him, and clenched 
my fists — **do you dare to confine a Britisher in 
your stinking cellars. By God! sir . . .'* 

Harun Pasha clapped his hand over my mouth; 
the two guards had me by the arms from behind. 
But my cries had aroused the man in the dungeon, 
and, as I was dragged down the passage, these moan- 
ing words reached me, spoken in Arabic: 

**Help! help! Englishman! A crime has been 
committed! I appeal to Lord .'* 

A door was slammed fast with a resounding bang, 
and the rest of the captive's appeal was lost to me. 
One of my guards had substituted his hand for that 
of the Pasha, but now it was removed ; and, speech- 



^64 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT 

less with rage, I found myself being thmst up stone 
stairs — and I realized that by a moment's indis- 
cretion, I had ruined everything. 

Back in the amber apartment once more, with the 
two Scimitars at the door and Harun Pasha reclin- 
ing upon the cushions, I found speech. 

**What are you going to do with me!'* I de- 
manded. 

**My son," replied the Pasha with benignity, **I 
pardon all I Your great courage and address, to- 
gether with the modesty of your deportment, and 
the spirit of adventure which has brought you to 
your present unfortunate case, plead for you in a 
manner which my clemency cannot resist. It is my 
unhappy lot often to be called upon to punish. To- 
night, those gloomy dungeons which you have seen 
will echo, alas, with the howls of miserable wretches 
who are responsible for the loss of the pearl of my 
soul; for I am persuaded that she has fled with the 
son of offal who profaned the words of Allah from 
the minaret This being so, I would temper my 
proper severity with a merciful deed. You shall 
never speak of what you have seen within these walls, 
save in terms suitably disguised. You shall never 
seek to return, nor, by speech with any man, to con- 
firm whatsoever you may suspect Upon this war- 
ranty, you shall depart in peace.'' 

He clapped his hands twice, and a houri of most 
bewitching aspect glided into the diwan. 

** Bring sherbet!" ordered the Pasha. 

The maiden departed ; and whilst I was yet trying 



HAEtrN PASHA 265 

to oome to a decision (the Pasha had mentioned no 
alternative, but my imagination was equal to the task 
of supplying one!) she returned with a tray upom 
which were porcelain cups and two vessels of beauti- 
fully chased gold. 

Harun Pasha decocted a sparkling beverage, and^ 
with his own hands, passed the brimming cup to me. 



I knew you would not believe it ; but I warned you, 
and I made a stipulation. Your idea is that I must 
be a poor sort of animal to accept so dishonorable a 
compromise t I agree. But the situation was even 
more peculiarly difficult than is apparent to you at 
the moment. Without seeking the information, I 
learned from Hassan of the Scent Bazaar that his 
brother had indeed fled with the beauteous Lady 
Zohara, no one knew whither; and this confirma- 
tion of the Pasha's sorrows touched a very tender 
spot in my heart I 

Then there is another little point. 

When the Pasha removed the elaborate stopper 
from the first of the golden vessels to which I have 
just referred, my eye alone perceived that a bottle, 
bearing a familiar black and white label, was con- 
tained in this golden casing. The flavor of the 
decoction with which we sealed our infamous bargain 
clinched the matter. 

I was absolutely thrust out of the presence cham- 
ber before I had time for another word ; but, looking 
back from the door and meeting the eye of the Pasha, 



266 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

I encountered a most portentous wink. Therefore 
I have stuck to my bargain. 

Oh! I have not given much away. The Pasha 
is not called Harun, and the palace is nowhere near 
the Coptic Church in Old Cairo. Because, you see, 
I only knew one man who winked in quite that 
elaborate fashion — and his name was Jack Dunlapl 



V 

IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 



CONDOR wrote to me three times before 
the end (said Neville, Assistant-Inspector 
of Antiquities, staring vaguely from his open 
window at a squad drilling before the Kasr-en-Nil 
Barracks). He dated his letters from the camp at 
Deir-el-Bahari. Judging from these, success ap- 
peared to be almost within his grasp. He shared my 
theories, of course, respecting Queen Hatasu, and 
was devoting the whole of his energies to the task 
of clearing up the great mystery of Ancient Egypt 
which centres around that queen. 

For him, as for me, there was a strange fascination 
about those defaced walls and roughly obliterated 
inscriptions. That the queen under whom Egyptian 
art came to the apogee of perfection should thus 
have been treated by her successors; that no per- 
fect figure of the wise, famous, and beautiful Hatasu 
should have been spared to posterity ; that her very 
cartouche should have been ruthlessly removed from 
every inscription upon which it appeared, presented 
to Condor's mind a problem only second in interest 
to the immortal riddle of Gizeh. 

You know my own views upon the matter? My 
monograph, ** Hatasu, the Sorceress,'' embodies my 

267 



368 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

opinioiL In short, upon certain evidences, some 
adduced by Theodore Da\ds, some by poor Condor, 
and some resulting from my own inquiries, I have 
come to the conclusion that the source — real or im- 
aginary — of this queen ^s power was an intimate 
acquaintance with what nowadays we term, vaguely, 
magic. Pursuing her studies beyond the limit which 
is lawful, she met with a certain end, not uncommon, 
if the old writings are to be believed, in the case of 
those who penetrate too far into the realms of the 
Borderland. 

For this reason — the practice of black magic — her 
statues were dishonored, and her name erased from 
the monuments. Now, I do not propose to enter into 
any discussion respecting the reality of such prac 
tices; in my monograph I have merely endeavored 
to show that, according to contemporary belief, the 
queen was a sorceress. Condor was seeking to prove 
the same thing; and when I took up the inquiry, it 
was in the hope of completing his interrupted work. 
He wrote to me early in the winter of 1908, from 
his camp by the Rock Temple. Davis's tomb, at 
Biban el-Muluk, with its long, narrow passage, 
apparently had little interest for him; he was 
at work on the high ground behind the temple, 
at a point one hundred yards or so due west of the 
upper platform. He had an idea that he should 
find there the mummies of Hatasu — and another; 
the latter, a certain Sen-Mut, who appears in the 
inscriptions of the reign as an architect high in the 
queen's favor. The archaeological points of the letter 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 269 

<Jo not concern us in the least, but there was one odd 
little paragraph which I had cause to remember 
afterwards. 

**A girl belonging to some Arab tribe/* wrote 
Condor, **came racing to the camp two nights ago 
to claim my protection. What crime she had com- 
mitted, and what punishment she feared, were far 
from clear; but she clung to me, trembling like a 
leaf, and positively refused to depart. It was a 
difficult situation, for a camp of fifty native ex- 
cavators, and one highly respectable European en- 
thusiast, affords no suitable quarters for an Arab 
girl — and a very personable Arab girl. At any rate, 
she is still here ; I have had a sort of lean-to rigged 
up in a little valley east of my own tent, but it is 
very embarrassing.'' 

Nearly a month passed before I heard from Con- 
dor again ; then came a second letter, with the news 
that on the eve of a great discovery — as he believed 
— ^his entire native staff — the whole fifty — ^had de- 
serted one night in a body! **Two days' work," he 
wrote, ** would have seen the tomb opened — for I 
am more than ever certain that my plans are accu- 
rate. Then I woke up one morning to find every man 
Jack of my fellows missing! I went down into the 
village where a lot of them live, in a towering rage, 
but not one of the brutes was to be found, and their 
relations professed entire ignorance respecting their 
whereabouts. What caused me almost as much 
anxiety as the check in my work was the fact that 
Mahara — the Arab girl — had vanished also. I am 



270 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

wondering if the thing has any sinister significance." 

Condor finished with the statement that he was 
making tremendous efforts to secure a new gang. 
**But/' said he, ^^I shall finish the excavation, if 
I have to do it with my own hands. ' ' 

His third and last letter contained even stranger 
matters than the two preceding it. He had suc- 
ceeded in borrowing a few men from the British 
Archaeological camp in the Fayum. Then, just as 
the work was restarting, the Arab girl, Mahara, 
turned up again, and entreated him to bring her 
do^vn the Nile, ^^at least as far as Dendera. For 
the vengeance of her tribesmen,^* stated Condor, 
'* otherwise would result not only in her own death, 
but in mine ! At the moment of writing I am in two 
minds what to do. If Mahara is to go upon this 
journey, I do not feel justified in sending her alone, 
and there is no one here who could perform the 
duty,'' etc. 

I began to wonder, of course; and I had it in 
mind to take the train to Luxor merely in order to 
see this Arab maiden, who seemed to occupy so 
prominent a place in Condor 's mind. However, Fate 
would have it otherwise ; and the next thing I heard 
was that Condor had been brought into Cairo, and 
was at the English hospital. 

He had been bitten by a cat — presumably from the 
neighboring village; and although the doctor at 
Luxor dealt with the bite at once, traveled down with 
him, and placed him in the hand of the Pasteur man 
at the hospital, he died, as you remember* in the night 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 271 

of his arrival, raving mad; the Pasteur treatment 
failed entirely. 

I never saw him before the end, but they told me 
that his howls were horribly like those of a cat. 
His eyes changed in some way, too, I understand; 
and, with his fingers all contracted, he tried to 
scratch everyone and everything within reach. 

They had to strap the poor beggar down, and 
even then he tore the sheets into ribbons. 

Well, as soon as possible, I made the necessary 
arrangements to finish Condor's inquiry. I had 
access to his papers, plans, etc., and in the spring 
of the same year I took up my quarters near Deir- 
el-Bahari, roped off the approaches to the camp, 
stuck up the usual notices, and prepared to finish 
the excavation, which, I gathered, was in a fairly 
advanced state. 

My first surprise came very soon after my arrival, 
for when, with the plan before me, I started out to 
find the shaft, I found it, certainly, but only with 
great difficulty. 

It had been filled in again with sand and loose 
rock right to the very top ! 

n 

All my inquiries availed me nothing. With what 
object the excavation had been thus closed I was 
unable to conjecture. That Condor had not reclosed 
it I was quite certain, for at the time of his mishap 
he had actually been at work at the bottom of the 
shaft, as inquiries from a native of Suefee, in the 



272 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Fayum, who was his only companion at the time, 
had revealed. 

In his eagerness to complete the inquiry, Condor, 
by lantern light, had been engaged upon a solitary 
night-shift below, and the rabid cat had apparently 
fallen into the pit; probably in a frenzy of fear, il 
had attacked Condor, after which it had escaped. 

Only this one man was with him, and he, for some 
reason that I could not make out, had apparently 
been sleeping in the temple — quite a considerable dis- 
tance from Condor *8 camp. The poor fellow's cries 
had aroused him, and he had met Condor running 
down the path and away from the shaft. 

This, however, was good evidence of the existence 
of the shaft at the time, and as I stood contemplat- 
ing the tightly packed rubble which alone marked 
its site, I grew more and more mystified, for this 
task of reclosing the cutting represented much hard 
labor. 

Beyond perfecting my plans in one or two particu- 
lars, I did little on the day of my arrival. I had 
only a handful of men with me, all of whom I knew, 
having worked with them before, and beyond clear- 
ing Condor's shaft I did not intend to excavate 
further. 

Hatasu's Temple presents a lively enough scene 
in the daytime during the winter and early spring 
months, with the streams of tourists constantly pass- 
ing from the white causeway to Cook's Rest House 
on the edge of the desert. There had been a goodly 
number of visitors that day to the temple below, and 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 273 

one or two of the more curious and venturesome had 
scrambled up the steep path to the little plateau 
which was the scene of my operations. None had 
penetrated beyond the notice boards, however, and 
now, with the evening sky passing through those in- 
numerable shades which defy palette and brush, 
which can only be distinguished by the trained eye, 
but which, from palest blue melt into exquisite pink, 
and by some magical combination form that deep 
violet which does not exist to perfection elsewhere 
than in the skies of Egypt, I found myself in the 
silence and the solitude of **the Holy Valley.'' 

I stood at the edge of the plateau, looking out at 
the rosy belt which marked the course of the distant 
Nile, with the Arabian hills vaguely sketched beyond 
The rocks stood up against that prospect as great 
black smudges, and what I could see of the causeway 
looked like a gray smear upon a drab canvas. Be- 
neath me were the chambers of the Rock Temple, 
with those wall paintings depicting events in the 
reign of Hatasu which rank among the wonders of 
Egypt. 

Not a sound disturbed my reverie, save a faint 
clatter of cooking utensils from the camp behind 
me — a desecration of that sacred solitude. Then a 
dog began to howl in the neighboring village. The 
dog ceased, and faintly to my ears came the note 
of a reed pipe. The breeze died away, and with it 
the piping. 

I turned back to the o^mp, and, having partaken 
pf a frugal supper, turned in upon my campaigner's 



274 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

bed, thoroughly enjoying my freedom from the rou- 
tine of official life in Cairo, and looking forward to 
the morrow *s work pleasurably. 

Under such circumstances a man sleeps well; and 
when, in an uncanny gray half-light, which probably 
heralded the dawn, I awoke with a start, I knew that 
something of an unusual nature alone could have 
disturbed my slumbers. 

Firstly, then, I identified this with a concerted 
howling of the village dogs. They seemed to have 
conspired to make night hideous ; I have never heard 
such an eerie din in my life. Then it gradually 
began to die away, and I realized, secondly, that the 
howling of the dogs and my own awakening might 
be due to some common cause. This idea grew upon 
me, and as the howling subsided, a sort of disquiet 
possessed me, and, despite my efforts to shake it off, 
grew more urgent with the passing of every mo- 
ment. 

In short, I fancied that the thing which had 
alarmed or enraged the dogs was passing from the 
village through the Holy Valley, upward to the 
Temple, upward to the plateau, and was approach- 
ing me. 

I have never experienced an identical sensation 
since, but I seemed to be audient of a sort of psychic 
patrol, which, from a remote pianissimo, swelled 
fortissimo, to an intimate but silent clamor, which 
beat in some way upon my brain, but not through 
the faculty of hearing, for now the night was deathly 
stilL 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCEREvSS 275 

Yet I was persuaded of some approach — of the 
coming of something sinister, and the suspense of 
waiting had become ahnost insupportable, so that 
I began to accuse my Spartan supper of having given 
me nightmare, when the tent-flap was suddenly 
raised, and, outlined against the paling blue of the 
sky, with a sort of reflected elfin light playing upon 
her face, I saw an Arab girl looking in at me I 

By dint of exerting all my self-control I managed 
to restrain the cry and upward stai-t which this 
apparition prompted. Quite still, with my fists 
tightly clenched, I lay and looked into the eyes which 
were looking into mine. 

The style of literary work which it has been my 
lot to cultivate fails me in describing that beautiful 
and evil face. The features were severly classical 
and small, something of the Bisharin type, with a 
cruel little mouth and a rounded chin, firm to hard- 
ness. In the eyes alone lay the languor of the Orient ; 
they were exceedingly — indeed, excessively — long 
and narrow. The ordinary ragged, picturesque 
finery of a desert girl bedecked this midnight visi- 
tant, who, motionless, stood there watching me. 

I once read a work by Pierre de PAncre, dealing 
with the Black Sabbaths of the Middle Ages, and 
now the evil beauty of this Arab face threw my 
memory back to those singular pages, for, perhaps 
owing to the reflected light which I have mentioned^ 
although the explanation scarcely seemed adequate, 
those long, narrow eyes shone catlike in the gloom. 

Suddenly I made up my mind. Throwing the 



276 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

blanket from me, I leapt to the ground, and in a 
flash had gripped the girl by the wrists. Confuting 
some lingering doubts, she proved to be substantial 
enough. My electric torch lay upon a box at the 
foot of the bed, and, stooping, I caught it up and 
turned its searching rays upon the face of my cap- 
tive. 

She fell back from me, panting like a wild creature 
trapped, then dropped upon her knees and began to 
plead — began to plead in a voice and with a manner 
which touched some chord of consciousness that I 
could swear had never spoken before, and has never 
spoken since. 

She spoke in Arabic, of course, but the words fell 
from her lips as liquid music in which lay all the 
beauty and all the deviltry of the ^' Siren ^s Song.*' 
Fully opening her astonishing eyes, she looked up 
at me, and, with her free hand pressed to her bosom, 
told me how she had fled from an unwelcome mar- 
riage ; how, an outcast and a pariah, she had hidden 
in the desert places for three days and three nights, 
sustaining life only by means of a few dates which 
she had brought with her, and quenching her thirst 
with stolen water-melons. 

* ^ I can bear it no longer, ejfendim. Another night 
out in the desert, with the cruel moon beating, beat- 
ing, beating upon my brain, with creeping things 
coming out from the rocks, wriggling, wriggling, 
their many feet making whisperings in the sand — 
ah, it will kill me I And I am for ever outcast from 
my tribe, from my people. No tent of all the Arabs, 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 277 

though I fly to the gates of Damascus, is open to me, 
save I enter in shame, as a slave, as a plaything, as 
a toy. My heart" — furiously she beat upon her 
breast — *'is empty and desolate, effendim. I am 
meaner than the lowliest thing that creeps upon the 
sand; yet the God that made that creeping thing 
made me also — and you, you, who are merciful and 
strong, would not crush any creature because it was 
weak and helpless. ^ * 

I had released her wrist now, and was looking 
down at her in a sort of stupor. The evil which at 
first I had seemed to perceive in her was effaced, 
wiped out as an artist wipes out an error in his draw- 
ing. Her dark beauty was speaking to me in a 
language of its own; a strange language, yet one 
so intelligible that I struggled in vain to disregard it. 
And her voice, her gestures, and the witch-fire of 
her eyes were whipping up my blood to a fever heat 
of passionate sorrow — of despair. Yes, incredible 
as it sounds, despair ! 

In short, as I see it now, this siren of the wilder- 
ness was playing upon me as an accomplished musi- 
cian might play upon a harp, striking this string 
and that at will, and sounding each with such full 
notes as they had rarely, if ever, emitted before. 

Most damnable anomaly of all, I — Edward Neville, 
archaeologist, most prosy and matter-of-fact man in 
Cairo, perhaps — knew that this nomad who had burst 
into my tent, upon whom I had set eyes for the first 
time scarce three minutes before, held me enthralled ; 
and yet, with her wondrous eyes upon me, I could 



278 TAI.es of secret EGYPT 

summon up no resentment, and could offer but poor 
resistance. 

* ^ In the Little Oasis, effendim, I have a sister who 
will admit me into her household, if only as a ser^ 
vant. There I can be safe, there I can rest. Inglisi, 
at home in England you have a sister of your own! 
Would you see her pursued, a hunted thing from rock 
to rock, crouching for shelter in the lair of some 
jackal, stealing that she might live — and flying al- 
ways, never resting, her heart leaping for fear, fly- 
ing, flying, with nothing but dishonor before her!^* 

She shuddered and clasped my left hand in both 
'ler own convulsively, pulling it down to her bosom. 

** There can be only one thing, effendhn/' she 
whispered. *^Do you not see the white bones bleach- 
mg in the sun?^' 

Thro^ang all my resolution into the act, I released 
my hand from her clasp, and, turning aside, sat down 
upon the box which served me as chair and table, too. 

A thought had come to my assistance, had 
strengthened me in the moment of my greatest weak- 
ness ; it was the thought of that Arab girl mentioned 
in Condor's letters. And a scheme of things, an 
incredible scheme, that embraced and explained 
some, if not all, of the horrible circumstances atten- 
dant upon his death, began to form in my brain. 

Bizarre it was, stretching out beyond the realm 
of things natural and proper, yet I clung to it, for 
there, in the solitude, with this wildly beautiful crea- 
ture kneeling at my feet, and with her uncanny 
powers of fascination yet enveloping me like a cloak. 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 279 

I found it not so improbable as inevitably it must 
have seemed at another time. 

I turned my head, and through the gloom sought 
to look into the long eyes. As I did so they closed 
and appeared as two darkly luminous slits in the 
perfect oval of the face. 

**You are an impostor!'' I said in Arabic, speak- 
ing firmly and deliberately. *'To Mr. Condor'' — I 
could have sworn that she started slightly at sound 
of the name — **you called yourself Mahara. I know 
you, and I will have nothing to do with you. ' ' 

But in saying it I had to turn my head aside, for 
the strangest, maddest impulses were bubbling up 
in my brain in response to the glances of those half- 
shut eyes: 

I reached for my coat, which lay upon the foot 
of the bed, and, taking out some loose money, I 
placed fifty piastres in the nerveless brown hand. 

**That will enable you to reach the Little Oasis, 
if such is your desire, ' ' I said. * * It is all I can do for 
you, and now — you must go." 

The light of the dawn was growing stronger 
momentarily, so that I could see my visitor quite 
clearly. She rose to her feet, and stood before me, 
a straight, slim figure, sweeping me from head to 
foot with such a glance of passionate contempt as 
I had never known or suffered. 

She threw back her head magnificently, dashed 
the money on the ground at my feet, and, turning, 
leaped out of the tent. 

For a moment I hesitated, doubting, questioning 



280 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

my hnmanity, testing my fears; then I took a step 
forward, and peered out across the plateau. Not 
a soul was in sight. The rocks stood up gray and 
eerie, and beneath lay the carpet of the desert 
stretching unbroken to the shadows of the Nile 
Valley. 

m 

We commenced the work of clearing the shaft at 
an early hour that morning. The strangest ideas 
were now playing in my mind, and in some way I 
felt myself to be in opposition to definite enmity. 
My excavators labored with a will, and, once we 
had penetrated below the first three feet or so of 
tightly packed stone, it became a mere matter of 
shoveling, for apparently the lower part of the shaft 
had been filled up principally with sand. 

I calculated that four days' work at the outside 
would see the shaft clear to the base of Condor's 
excavation. There remained, according to his own 
notes, only another six feet or so; but it was solid 
limestone — the roof of the passage, if his plans were 
correct, communicating with the tomb of Hatasu. 

"With the approach of night, tired as I was, I felt 
little incliniation for sleep. I lay down on my bed 
with a small Browning pistol under the pillovf, but 
after an hour or so of nervous listening drifted off 
into slumber. As on the night before, I awoke 
shortly before the coming of dawn. 

Again the village dogs were raising a hideous out- 
ory, and again I was keenly conscious of some ever- 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 281 

nearing menace. This consciousness grew stronger 
as the howling of the dogs grew fainter, and the 
sense of approach assailed me as on the previous 
occasion. 

I sat up immediately with the pistol in my hand, 
and, gently raising the tent flap, looked out over the 
darksome plateau. For a long time I could perceive 
nothing; then, vaguely outlined against the sky, I 
detected something that moved above the rocky edge. 

It was so indefinite in form that for a time I was 
unable to identify it, but as it slowly rose higher 
and higher, two luminous eyes — obviously feline 
eyes, since they glittered greenly in the darkness — 
came into view. In character and in shape they 
were the eyes of a cat, but in point of size they were 
larger than the eyes of any cat I had ever seen. 
Nor were they jackal eyes. It occurred to me that 
some predatory beast from the Sudan might con- 
ceivably have strayed thus far north. 

The presence of such a creature would account 
for the nightly disturbance amongst the village dogs ; 
and, dismissing the superstitious notions which had 
led me to associate the mysterious Arab girl with 
the phenomenon of the howling dogs, I seized upon 
this new idea with a sort of gladness. 

Stepping boldly out of the tent, I strode in the 
direction of the gleaming eyes. Although my only 
weapon was the Browning pistol, it was a weapon 
of considerable power, and, moreover, I counted upon 
the well-known cowardice of nocturnal animals. I 
was not disappointed in the result. 



282 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

The eyes dropped out of sight, and as I leaped to 
the edge of rock overhanging the temple a lithe shape 
went streaking off in the greyness beneath me. Its 
coloring appeared to be black, but this appearance 
may have been due to the bad light. Certainly it 
was no cat, was no jackal; and once, twice, thrice 
my Browning spat into the darkness. 

Apparently I had not scored a hit, but the loud 
reports of the weapon aroused the men sleeping in 
the camp, and soon I was surrounded by a ring of 
inquiring faces. 

But there I stood on the rock-edge, looking out 
across the desert in silence. Something in the long, 
luminous eyes, something in the sinuous, flying shape 
had spoken to me intimately, horribly. 

Hassan es-Sugra, the headman, touched my arm, 
and I knew that I must offer some explanation. 

** Jackals,'^ I said shortly. And with no other 
word I walked back to my tent. 

The night passed without further event, and in 
the morning we addressed ourselves to the work 
with such a will that I saw, to my satisfaction, that 
by noon of the following day the labor of clearing 
the loose sand would be completed. 

During the preparation of the evening meal I be- 
came aware of a certain disquiet in the camp, and I 
noted a disinclination on the part of the native labor- 
ers to stray far from the tents. They hung together 
in a group, and whilst individually they seemed to 
avoid meeting my eye, collectively they watched me 
in a furtive fashion. 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 283 

A gang of Moslem workmen calls for delicate 
handling, and I wondered if, inadvertently, I had 
transgressed in some way their iron-bound code of 
conduct. I called Hassan es-Sugra aside. 

* * What ails the men V^ I asked him. ' ' Have they 
some grievance f 

Hassan spread his palms eloquently. 

**If they have,'' he replied, *Hhey are secret about 
it, and I am not in their confidence. Shall I thrash 
three or four of them in order to learn the nature 
of this grievance r' 

**No thanks all the same," I said, laughing at 
this characteristic proposal. **If they refuse to 
work to-morrow, there will be time enough for you 
to adopt those measures.*' 

On this, the third night of my sojourn in the Holy 
Valley by the Temple of Hatasu, I slept soundly 
and uninterruptedly. I had been looking forward 
with the keenest zest to the morrow's work, which 
promised to bring me within sight of my goal, and 
when Hassan came to awaken me, I leaped out of bed 
immediately. 

Hassan es-Sugra, having performed his duty, did 
not, as was his custom, retire ; he stood there, a tall, 
angular figure, looking at me strangely. 

**Welir' I said. 

* * There is trouble, ' ' was his simple reply. * * Follow 
me, Neville Effendi. ' ' 

Wondering greatly, I followed him across the 
plateau and down the slope to the excavation. There 
I pulled up short with a cry of amazement. 



284 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Condor's shaft was filled in to the very top, and 
presented, to my astonished gaze, much the same 
aspect that had greeted me upon my first arrivall 

*'The men '* I began. 

Hassan es-Sugra spread wide his palms. . 

**Gone!'' he replied. ** Those Coptic dogs, those 
eaters of carrion, have fled in the night.** 

**And this'* — I pointed to the little mound of 
broken granite and sand — *4s their work?** 

*^So it would seem,** was the reply; and Hassan 
sniffed his sublime contempt. 

I stood looking bitterly at this destruction of my 
toils. The strangeness of the thing at the moment 
did not strike me, in my anger; I was only con- 
cerned with the outrageous impudence of the miss- 
ing workmen, and if I could have laid hands upon 
one of them it had surely gone hard with him. 

As for Hassan es-Sugra, I believe he would cheer- 
fully have broken the necks of the entire gang. But 
he was a man of resource. 

**It is so newly filled in,** he said, *^that you and 
I, in three days, or in four, can restore it to the 
state it had reached when those nameless dogs, who 
regularly prayed with their shoes on, those devourers 
of pork, began their dirty work.** 

His example was stimulating. I was not going 
to be beaten, either. 

After a hasty breakfast, the pair of us set to work 
with pick and shovel and basket. We worked as 
those slaves must have worked whose toil was di- 
rected by the lash of the Pharaoh *s overseer. My 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 285 

back acquired an almost permanent crook, and every 
muscle in my body seemed to be on fire. Not even 
in the midday heat did we slacken or stay our toils ; 
and when dusk fell that night a great mound had 
arisen beside Condor's shaft, and we had excavated 
to a depth it had taken our gang double the time 
to reach. 

When at last we threw down our tools in utter 
exhaustion, I held out my hand to Hassan, and 
wrung his brown fist enthusiastically. His eyes 
sparkled as he met my glance. 

** Neville Effendi,*' he said, **you are a true 
Moslem ! ' ' 

And only the initiated can know how high was the 
compliment conveyed. 

That night I slept the sleep of utter weariness, 
yet it was not a dreamless sleep, or perhaps it was 
not so deep as I supposed, for blazing cat-eyes en- 
circled me in my dreams, and a constant feline 
howling seemed to fill the night. 

"When I awoke the sun was blazing down upon 
the rock outside my tent, and, springing out of bed, 
I perceived, with amazement, that the morning was 
far advanced. Indeed, I could hear the distant 
voices of the donkey-boys and other harbingers of 
the coming tourists. 

Why had Hassan es-Sugra not awakened me? 

I stepped out of the tent and called him in a loud 
voice. There was no reply. I ran across the plateau 
to the edge of the hollow. 

Condor's shaft had been reclosed to the topi 



286 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Language fails me to convey the wave of anger, 
amazement, incredulity, which swept over me. I 
looked across to the deserted camp and back to my 
own tent ; I looked down at the mound, v/here but a 
few hours before had been a pit, and seriously I 
began to question whether I was mad or whether 
madness had seized upon all who had been with me. 
Then, pegged down upon the heap of broken stones, 
I perceived, fluttering, a small piece of paper. 

Dully I walked across and picked it up. Hassan, 
a man of some education, clearly was the writer. 
It was a pencil scrawl in doubtful Arabic, and, not 
without difficulty, I deciphered it as follows : 

' ' Fly, Neville Eff endi ! This is a haunted place ! ' ' 

Standing there by the mound, I tore the scrap of 
paper into minute fragments, bitterly casting them 
from me upon the ground. It was incredible; it 
was insane. 

The man who had written that absurd message, 
the man who had undone his own work, had the repu- 
tation of being fearless and honorable. He had been 
with me before a score of times, and had quelled 
petty mutinies in the camp in a manner which marked 
him a born overseer. I could not understand; I 
could scarcely believe the evidence of my own senses. 

What did I dof 

I suppose there are some who would have aban- 
doned the thing at once and for always, but I take 
it that the national traits are strong within me. T 
went over to the camp and prepared my own break- 
fast ; then, shouldering pick and shovel, I went do^\Ti 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 287 

into the valley and set to work. What ten men 
could not do, what two men had failed to do, one 
man was determined to do. 

It was about half an hour after commencing my 
toils, and when, I suppose, the surprise and rage 
occasioned by the discovery had begun to wear off, 
that I found myself making comparisons between 
my own case and that of Condor. It became more 
and more evident to me that events — ^mysterious 
events — were repeating themselves. 

The frightful happenings attendant upon Condor's 
death were marshahng in my mind. The sun was 
blazing down upon me, and distant voices could be 
heard in the desert stillness. I knew that the plain 
below was dotted with pleasure-seeking tourists, yet 
nervous tremors shook me. Frankly, I dreaded the 
coming of the night. 

Well, tenacity or pugnacity conquered, and I 
worked on until dusk. My supper despatched, I sat 
down on my bed and toyed with the Browning. 

I realized already that sleep, under existing con- 
ditions, was impossible. I perceived that on the 
morrow I must abandon my one-man enterprise, 
pocket my pride, in a sense, and seek new assistants, 
new companions. 

The fact was coming home to me conclusively 
that a menace, real and not mythical, hung over 
that valley. Although, in the morning sunlight and 
filled with indignation, I had thought contemptu- 
ously of Hassan es-Sugra, now, in the mysterious 
violet dusk so conducive to calm consideration, I 



288 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT 

was forced to admit that he was at least as brave 
a man as I. And he had fled ! What did that night 
hold in keeping for me ? 

I will tell you what occurred, and it is the only 
explanation 1 have to give of why Condor *s shaft, 
said to communicate with the real tomb of Hatasu, 
to this day remains unopened. 

There, on the edge of my bed, I sat far into the 
night, not daring to close my eyes. But physical 
weariness conquered in the end, and, although I have 
no recollection of its coming, I must have succumbed 
to sleep, since I remember — can never forget —a 
repetition of the dream, or what I had assumed to b> 
a dream, ^^f the night before. 

A ring of blazing green eyes surrounded me. At 
one point this ring was broken, and in a kind of 
nightmare panic I leaped at that promise of safety, 
and found myself outside the tent. 

Lithe, slinking shapes hemmed me in — cat shapes, 
ghoul shapes, veritable figures of the pit. And the 
eyes, the shapes, although they were the eyes and 
shapes of cats, sometimes changed elusively, and 
became the wicked eyes and the sinuous, writhing 
shapes of women. Always the ring was incomplete, 
and always I retreated in the only direction by 
which retreat was possible. I retreated from those 
cat-things. 

In this fashion I came at last to the shaft, and 
there I saw the tools which I had left at the end of my 
day's toil. 



IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 289 

Looking around me, I saw also, with snch a pang 
of horror as I cannot hope to convey to you, that 
the ring of green eyes was now unbroken about me. 

And it was closing in. 

Nameless feline creatures were crowding silently 
to the edge of the pit, some preparing to spring 
down upon me where I stood. A voice seemed to 
speak in my brain; it spoke of capitulation, telling 
me to accept defeat, lest, resisting, my fate be the 
fate of Condor. 

Peals of shrill laughter rose upon the silence. 
The laughter was mine. 

Filling the night \\dth this hideous, hysterical mer- 
riment, I was working feverishly with pick and with 
shovel filling in the shaft. 

The end? The end is that I awoke, in the morning, 
lying, not on my bed, but outside on the plateau, my 
hands torn and bleeding and every muscle in my body 
throbbing agonisingly. Remembering my dream — 
for even in that moment of awakening I thought I 
had dreamed — I staggered across to the valley of the 
excavation. 

Condor's shaft was reclosed to the top. 



yi 

POMEGRANATE FLOWER 



TBCERE are not so many Antereeyeh (story- 
tellers) in Cairo now (said my acquaint- 
ance, Hassan of the Scent Bazaar, staring, 
reflectively, at two American ladies paying fabulous 
prices for the goods of his mendacious neighbor on 
the left). They have adopted other, and more lucra* 
tive, professions; but in my father ^s time, it was an 
excellent business. 

For one thing, the stories which you call the 
Arabian Nights are no longer recited, because they 
are said to be unlucky. This has considerably re- 
duced the story-teller's stock-in-trade; for unless a 
man is blessed with much originality, he cannot well 
refrain from using in his narratives some part of 
the thousand and one tales. 

To this day, however, there is in the city of Cairo 
a tale-teller of much repute. With his tale-telling 
he combines the profession of a barber; and like 
the famous barber of the Arabian Nights bears the 
nickname Es-Samit (the Silent). An old man is this 
Es-Samit, who no more will know his ninetieth year, 
of dark countenance, and white beard and eyebrows, 
with small ears like the ears of a gazelle, and a long 
nose like that of a camel, and a haughty aspect. 

290 






POMEGRANATE FLOWER 291 

This barber enjoys every comfort in his declining 
years by reason of his amusing manner, and because 
his ridiculous stories and disclosures respecting his 
isix brothers (for in all things he resembles, or 
claims to resemble, his famous namesake) divert all 
who hear them, causing him whose bosom is con- 
tracted with woe to swoon with excessive laughter, 
and filling the saddest heart with joy; such is the 
absurd loquacity and impertinence of the barber 
called Es-Samit, the Silent. 

It chanced one day that I found myself at the 
wedding festivities of a prosperous merchant dis- 
tantly related to me; and for the entertainment of 
his guests, this wealthy man, in addition to the usual 
dances and songs, had engaged Es-Samit to divert 
us with one of his untruthful stories. In order to 
refresh the Anteree's mendacity, the host thus 
addressed the barber — 

**0 Es-Samit, thou silent one! it hath come to 
my ears that in thine exceeding paucity of speech 
thou hast omitted, hitherto, to relate the story of 
thy seventh brother. Since thou hast a seventh 
brother, let not thy love of silence (in thee even 
greater than in thy famous ancestor) deprive us of 
a knowledge of his depravity, but acquaint us with 
his case. ' ' 

**0 Merchant Prince!'' replied the barber, **to 
none other than thyself — so handsome, so liberal, and 
of such excellent morality — ^would I break my vow, 
to speak of that Wretched villain, that malevolent 
mule, that vilest of the vile, my twin brother Ahzab." 



292 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

My cousin, feigning astonishment at the maimer 
of his speech, said — 

**Thy twin brother, Es-Samit, was not, like 
thee, a man of rectitude, of exalted mind, and of 
enlightened intelligence?*' 

**Alas!'' replied the barber, **he was a dog of 
the most mongrel kind. My bosom is pierced when 
I utter his accursed name ! At the hands of Ahzab, 
my twin brother, I met with every indignity, and 
with penalties of a most unfortunate description." 

When the host heard this, he laughed exceedingly, 
saying — 

** Acquaint us, O Es-Samit, with his shamelesa 
misdeeds." 

The barber, sighing as though his soul sought rest 
from all earthly afflictions, proceeded as follows : 

Ejiow, light of my eyes ! that my other brother, 
Ahzab, was born in the city of Cairo, and his birth 
was unattended by a darkening of the sun and other 
unpleasant calamities only by reason of the fact 
that / was born in the same hour I 

My twin brother, Ahzab, was blessed with hand- 
some stature, an elegant shape, a perfect figure, with 
cheeks like roses, with eyebrows meeting above an 
aquiline nose brightly shining. In short, this shame 
of my mother was endowed with all those perfections 
which Allah (whose name be exalted) had also be- 
stowed upon me; but his heart was the heart of a 
serpent, and he lacked the nobility of mind which 



POMEGRANATE FLOWEB 293 

thou hast observed in thy servant, Paragon of 
wisdom I 

"When we were yet in the bloom and blossom of 
handsome youth, a dispute arose between us, and 
for many moons I saw not Ahzab, but pursued my 
occupation as a barber and teller of wonderful stories 
in a distant part of the city. In this way it befell 
that I knew of his state only by report, until one 
day as I sat before my shop observing if the ascen- 
dent of the hour were favorable to one who waited 
to be shaved, there came to me a negro most hand- 
somely dressed, who said: 

**My Master, Ahzab the Merchant, desires that 
you repair as soon as possible to his magazine. He 
hath urgent need of thee. ' ' 

Upon hearing these words, and observing the rich- 
ness of the negro's apparel, I perceived that those 
reports which had come to me, respecting Ahzab 's 
wealth, were no more than true; and I spoke thus 
to myself: 

** Within the vilest heart may bloom the flower of 
brotherly affection. Ahzab desires to share with 
me, the most enlightened of his family, this good 
fortune which hath befallen him." 

Accordingly, I shut up my shop, dismissing the 
one who waited to be shaved, and followed the black 
to the Khan Khalil, where were the shops of the 
wealthy silk merchants. My brother received me 
affectionately, embracing me and saying : 

'*0 Es-Samit, ever have I loved thee, Lo ! Thou 
growest more like myself each year. Save that thou 



294 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

art more dignified and noble. Enter into this private 
apartment with me, for it is important that no one 
shall see thee/' 

Much surprised at his words, I followed him to an 
elegant apartment above the shop, and there he * 
ordered the servants to roast a lamb and to bring ' 
to us fruit and wine; and while we thus pleasantly 
employed ourselves, he unfolded to me his case. 

**Know, my brother, that I have accumulated 
great wealth; and this I have done by observing 
those wise precepts of conduct laid down by thee. 
By the charm of my speech, which I have fashioned 
upon thine, and the elegance of my manner, in which 
I have, though poorly, imitated thine own, and by 
the dignity and the modesty of my conduct, I have 
endeared all hearts and am esteemed above all the 
other merchants in Cairo. 

**It is necessary that I repair to Damascus, and 
during my absence I wish nothing better than that 
thou shouldst take my place here. This will be 
favorable to both of us; for I will reward thy ser- 
vices with ^xe hundred piastres and an interest in 
my affairs, and thou wilt pass for me; for all will 
say, *Lo ! Ahzab the Merchant waxes more handsome 
each day; such is the benign influence of righteous 
prosperity and conscious rectitude!' My affairs 
stand thus and thus, and my steward, who will be 
in our confidences, will acquaint thee with all matters 
necessary. Thou wilt wear my costly garments, and 
sit in my shop. Each evening thou wilt secretly 
repair to thine own abode.'* 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 295 

Upon hearing those words, my bosom swelled with 
joy; for I observed that Ahzab had not failed to 
perceive my exalted qualities. We sat far into the 
night in conversation respecting our plans; and on 
the following day, Ahzab having departed secretly 
for Damascus, I repaired to his shop, as arranged, 
and took my seat there. 

But the number of the persons who saluted me, 
and by the manner of their speech, I perceived, more 
and more, the great prosperity of my brother ; and 
being of a thoughtful mind, I passed the days very 
pleasantly in contemplation of my good fortune. 

Upon the fourth day after the departure of my 
brother, as I sat in his shop, there came past a 
damsel accompanied by female attendants. This 
damsel was riding upon a mule with a richly em- 
broidered saddle, with stirrups of gold, and she was 
covered with an izar of exquisite fabric ; and about 
her slender waist was a girdle of gold-embroidered 
-silk. I was stricken speechless with the beauty and 
elegance of her form; and when she alighted and 
came into the shop, the odors of sweet perfumes 
were diffused from her, and she captivated my rea- 
son by her loveliness. 

Seating herself beside me, she raised her izar, and 
I beheld her black eyes. And they surpassed in 
beauty the eyes of all human beings, and were like 
the eyes of the gazelle. She had a mouth like the 
Seal of Suleyman, and hair blacker than the night 
of affliction; a forehead like the new moon of 
Ramadan, and cheeks like anemones, with lips 



296 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

fresher than rose petals, teeth like pearls from the 
sea of distraction, and a neck surpassing in white- 
ness molten silver, above a form that pnt to shame 
the willow branch. 

She spoke to me, saying: 

* * Ahzab ! I have returned as I promised thee ! ' * 

At the sound of her voice, by Allah (whose name 
be exalted!) I was entangled in the snare of her 
love ; fire was burning up my heart on her account ; 
a consuming flame increased within my bosom, and 
my reason was drowned in the sea of my desire. 

Perceiving my state, she quickly lowered her veil 
in pretended displeasure, and desired to look at 
some pieces of silk. While she thus employed her- 
self, she surpassed the branches in the beauty of 
her bending motions, and my eyes could not remove 
themselves from her. I thus communed with my- 
self: 

*^0 Es-Samit, thou didst contract with thy brother 
to do this and that, and to render unto him a proper 
account of thy dealings. But though he hath made 
thee no mention of his affair with this damsel — it is 
important that thou conductest this matter as he 
would have done, so that he cannot reproach thee 
vdih negligence!** For I was ever a just as well 
as a discreet and silent man, 

Ac<5ordingly I spoke as follows : 

**0 my mistress, who art the most lovely person 
God has created, rend not my heart with thy dis- 
pleasure, but take pity upon me. Know that love 
is difficult, and the concealment of it melteth iron 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 297 

and occasioneth disease and infirmity. Thou hast 
returned as thou didst promise ; therefore I conjure 
thee, conceal not thy face from thy slave I*' 

The damsel thereupon raised her head and put 
aside her veil, casting a glance upon me and looked 
sideways at the attendants, and placed one finger 
upon her lips ; so that I knew her to be as discreet 
as she was lovely. She laughed in my face, and said : 

**I will take this piece of embroidered silk that 
I have chosen. What is the price T' 

And I answered; 

*'One hundred piasters; but I pray thee let it 
be thine, and a gift from Ahzab!*' 

Upon this, she looked into my eyes and the sight 
of her face drew from me a thousand sighs, and took 
the silk, saying : 

**0 my master, leave me not desolate!" 

So she departed, while I continued sitting in the 
market-street until past the hour of afternoon 
prayer, with disturbed mind enslaved by her beauty 
and loveliness. I returned to my house and supper 
was placed before me, but reflecting upon the damsel, 
I could eat nothing. I laid myself down to rest, 
but passed the whole night sleepless, communing 
with myself how I could best carry out this affair 
and obtain possession of the damsel ... for my 
brother, Ahzab! 

n 

Scarcely had daybreak appeared when I arose 
and repaired to the market-place and put on a suit 



298 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

of my brother's clothing, richer and more magnifi- 
cent than that I had worn the day before ; and having 
drunk a cup of wine, I sat in the shop. But all that 
day she came not, nor the next, but upon the third 
day she came again, attended only by one attendant, 
and she saluted me and said in a speech never sur- 
passed in softness and sweetness : 

* ^ my master, reproach me not that I thus reveal 
the interest I have in thee, but I could not speak to 
thee when my women were in hearing ; and this one 
is in my confidence. I have told thee that my father 
will never give me to thee because of my rank, but 
thou hast wounded my heart, and more and more do 
I love thee each day — for each day thou growest 
more beautiful and elegant. Forever I must ba 
desolate. Alas ! I have placed thy letter in the box 
thou didst give me, and no day passes that it is not 
wet with my tears. Farewell ! my beloved ! ' ' 

On hearing this, my love and passion grew so 
violent that I almost became insensible. The damsel 
rose to leave the shop, and the one who was with her 
spoke softly in her ear; but she shook her head> 
expressing displeasure, and went away. 

When I perceived that indeed she was gone, verily 
the tears descended upon my cheek like rain, and my 
soul had all but departed. My heart clung to her— 
I followed in the direction of her steps, through the 
market-place, and lo! the attendant came running 
back to me, and said : 

**Here is the message of my mistress : *Know that 
my love is greater than thine, and on Friday next 



POMEGRANATE FLOWEB 299 

my servant will come to thee and tell thee how thou 
mayest see me for a short interview before my 
father comes back from prayers. ' ' ' 

When I heard these words of the girl, the anguish 
of my heart ceased, and I was intoxicated with love 
and rapture, and in my joy and longing, I omitted 
to ask the girl the abode of her mistress— neither 
did I know the name of my beloved; but reflecting 
upon these matters, I returned to my brother's shop, 
and sat there until late, and then I repaired secretly 
to my abode. 

I paused in a quiet street, and seated myself upon 
a mastabah to scent the coolness of the air, and to 
abandon myself to exquisite reflections. 

But no sooner had I thus seated myself than a 
negro of gigantic stature, and most hideous aspect, 
suddenly appeared from the shadow of a door, and 
threw himself upon me, exclaiming : 

*'This is thine end, as it was written, Ahzab the 
Merchant ! * ' 

By Allah! (whose name be exalted) I thought it 
was even as he said ; and none but myself had fallen 
into sudden dissolution, but that everything slippery 
is not a pancake, and the jar that is struck may yet 
escape unbroken. 

So it befell that by great good fortune and by the 
exercise of my agility and intelligence, I tripped 
the negro and his head came in contact with the 
mastabah, and before he could recover himself, I 
held to his ebony throat the blade of a razor which, 
by the mercy of God, and because it was a custom 



300 TALES OF SEGEET EGYPT 

of my profession, I carried in my kamar. 

**0 thou dogV^ I exclaimed, ** prepare to depart 
to that ntter darkness and perdition that awaits 
assassins ! For assuredly I am about to slay thee !*' 

But he humbled himself to the ground before me, 
and embraced my feet, crying: 

**Have mercy, my master! I but obeyed the 
commands ! ' ' 

*'0f whom, thou vile and unnamable vermin?*' 
T asked of him. 

*'0f whom else but Abu-el-Hassan, the son of the 
Kadi! For hath he not revealed to thee that for 
what has passed with Jullanar (Pomegranate 
Flower), the daughter of the Wall, he will slay 
thee?'* 

*^He hath revealed this to me!'* I asked of him, 
astonished at his words. 

And he replied: '^Thou knowest, master, it was 
6y my hand that the message was borne." 

Whereupon I praised Allah (whose name be ex- 
alted) and spurned the slave with my foot, saying: 

*^ Depart, thou black son of filth, and report 
that I am dead. I give thee thy wretched life; 
depart ! * * 

But when he had gone, I again lifted up my voice 
in thanksgiving. And having come to my abode, 
I performed the preparatory ablution, and recited 
the prayer of night-fall; after which I recited the 
chapters **Ya-Sin" (The Cow) and **Two Preventa- 
tives." For I perceived that this was the true pur- 
port of my brother's absence, and that in his love 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 301 

and affection he had resigned to me this affair, well 
knowing that I should perish ! 

It was by the mercy of Allah, the Compassionate, 
the Merciful, that my case was not as he had fore- 
seen. The damsel called Jullanar, daughter of the 
Wall, was famed from Cairo to the uttermost islands 
of China for her elegance and loveliness, and I knew 
that my beloved could be none other than she, and 
that Abu-el-Hassan, son of the Kadi, could be none 
other than the betrothed chosen of her father the 
Wall. 

I slept not that night, but passed the hours until 
sunrise reflecting upon this matter, and upon the 
dangers which awaited my father's handsome son 
on Friday. And I went not to the market on the 
next day, but sent a message to my brother's 
steward saying that I was smitten with sickness and 
enjoining him to acquaint the girl, who presently 
would come, where I was to be found. 

Thus it befell that at noon on Friday the same 
girl that had been with Jullanar came to me, sent 
thither from the shop of Ahzab by the steward, 
saying : 

**0 my master, answer the sumons of my mistress. 
This is the plan that I have proposed to her: Con- 
ceal thyself within one of the large chests that are 
in thy shop, and hire a porter to carry thee to the 
house of the Wall. I will cause the bowwab to admit 
the chest to the apartment of the Lady Jullanar. 
She doth trust her honor to thy discretion, by reason 
I of her love for thee, and because she w/jl die if she 



302 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

see thee not to bid thee farewell. I will arrange 
for thee to be secretly conveyed from the house, ere 
the Wall returns.'^ 

And at her words I was like to have swooned with 
ecstasy; and I forgot, in the transport of love and 
delight, the black assassin and the threatened venge- 
ance of Abu-el-Hassan. I set at naught my fears at 
trusting my father 's favorite son mthin the walls of 
the Wall's house. I thought only of Jullanar of the 
slender waist and heavy hips, of the dewy lips, more 
intoxicating than wine, and the eyes of my beloved 
like wells of temptation to swallow up the souls of 
men. 

I shaved and went to the bath, and repaired to 
the shop of Ahzab. My brother's steward was not 
there, whereat I rejoiced, and arrayed myself in the 
most splendid suit that I could find, and having 
perfumed myself with essences and sweet scents, I 
summoned a boy and said: 

**Go thou and bring here a porter. Order him to 
carry yon large chest to the house of the Wali, near 
the Mosque of Ibn-Mizheh, and ask for the lady 
Jullanar who hath purchased this box and a number 
of things which are in it. See that he be a strong 
man, for the box is very hea\y. ' ' 

The boy replied. *^0n the head,'' and departed 
on his errand. 

Thereupon I commended my soul to Allah, and 
entered the box, closing the lid upon me. Scarcely 
had I concealed myself, when the porter entered and 
lifted the chest. The boy assisted him to take it upon 



_j 



POMEGEANATE FLOWER 303 

his back, and he bore it out into the market-street 

'*Now by the beard of the Prophet ( on whom be 
peace),'' I exclaimed to myself, *4t is well that I am 
named Es-Samit, the Silent ; for had it been other- 
wise, I mnst have lifted up my voice against this 
son of perdition who carries me with my soles raised 
to heaven!" 

The porter conveyed me for some distance, pant- 
ing beneath the weight of the box, and, presently, 
coming to a mastabah, dropped one end of the box 
^pon it, whilst he rested himself. 

**Now as Allah is great, and Mohammed his only 
prophet," I said in my beard, **I am fortunate in 
that I have acquired a paucity of diction. There 
is no other in Cairo, but the joy of my mother, that 
could refrain from speech when dropped upon his 
^kull on a stone bench ! " 

After a while, the porter raised the chest again, 
and resumed his journey, presently coming to the 
house of the Wall, and dropping the box into the 
courtyard. 

** Allah be praised!" I said. **For if this porter, 
whose name be accursed, did but carry me a quinary 
further, my silence would become even more sur- 
prising than it is; for my affair would finish, and 
I should speak no more to any man!" 

The howwab now cried out : 

**What is in this chest?" 

** Purchases of the lady Jullanar," said the girl, 
whom I recognized by her voice. * * Permit the porter 
to carry it to her apartments." 



304 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

**I must obey the orders of the Wali my master," 
replied the door-keeper. * * The box must be opened. ' ' 

I was bereft of the power to control myself, and 
seized with a colic from excess of fear; I almost 
died from the violent spasms of my limbs. - 

**0 Es-Samitl^' I said, ''this is the reward of 
him whom love leads to the house of the Wali ! ' ' 

I felt certain that my destruction approached. 
The intoxication of love now ceased in me, and re- 
flection came in its place. I repented of what I had 
done, and prayed a happy solution of my dangerous 
case. 

Whether as a result of my prayers, I know not, 
but some arrangement was come to, and the porter 
once more raised the chest, and, striking my head 
upon the end of it at each step, bore me up to the 
apartments of Jullanar, which I thus entered feet 
first. 

He deposited the box, lid downward, upon the 
soft mattress of a dtwan, so that I found myself upon 
all fours, like a mule with my face between my hands ! 
Ere I could break my habitual silence, he lifted some 
heavy piece of furniture — I know not what — and 
placed it on top of the box ! 

A voice sweeter than the songs of the Daood 
spoke : 

** Slave! what art thou doing!" 

**I am thy slave!" spoke another voice, at the 
accursed sound whereof I almost died of spleen. 
^*Knowest thou me not, my beloved? I have devised 
a new stratagem and come to thee in the guise of a 






POMEGRANATE FLOWER 305 

porter I But lo ! beneath my uncomely garments, I 
am Ahzab, thy lover!'' 

in 

As a man who sleeps ill after a protracted feast^ 
I heard her answer, saying : 

**Is it true thou hast come to me, or is this a 
dream?" 

''Verily, it is true!" answered the accursed, the 
vile, the unspeakable Ahzab, my brother — for it was 
he. ''From the time when I first saw thee, neither 
I leep hath been sweet to me, nor hath wine possessed 
the slightest flavor! I have come to thee thus, frag- 
rant bloom of the pomegranate, because I would not 
have thee see me in a posture so undignified as that 
of one crouched in a box ! So that thy people might 
be compelled to give me access to thine apartments, 
I have put a mendicant in my place, rendering the 
chest heavy!" 

And she said, "Thou art welcome !" and embraced 
him. 

By Allah (whose name be exalted), I gnawed my 
beard until I choked! 

"Thou art changed, beloved!" she said to him; 
"thou art always beautiful, but to-day thou seemest 
less rosy-cheeked to mine eyes!" 

The accursed Ahzab, like an enraged mule, kicked 
the box wherein I dissolved in flames of wrath. 

"I am burnt up with love and longing for thee!" 
he replied "0 my love! how beautiful thou art!" 



306 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Whereat my command of silence forsook me ! As 
Allah is the one god, and Mohammed his only Pro- 
phet, I became as one possessed of a devil! 

*^Robber!'- I cried; and my words lost them 
selves within the box. ** Cheat! accursed disgrace 
of my father ! infamy of my race ! dog ! unut- 
terable dirt!*' 

Jullanar cried out in fear, but my accursed brother 
took her in his bosom, soothing her with soft words. 

**Fear not, my beloved!'' he said. *^I gave the 
mendicant wine that his heart might warm to his 
lowly task, but I fear he has become intoxicated!" 

* * thou liar ! " I cried. * ^ malevolent scoundrel I 
son of a disease!" And with all my strength I 
sought to raise the weight that bore me down; but 
to no purpose. 

**Know, my beloved," continued my thrice- 
accursed brother, *^what I have suffered on thy 
account. But three days since I was attacked by 
four gigantic negro assassins despatched by Abu-el- 
Hassan to slay me ! But I vanquished them, killing 
one and maiming a second, whilst the others escaped 
and ran back to their wretched master. ' ' 

**0 unutterable liar!" I groaned. For I was near 
to hastening my predestined end both from suffo- 
cation and consuming rage. **Thou didst fly, thou 
jackal ! from that peril, and reapest the fruits of my 
courage and dexerity! 0, mud! 0, stench!" 

^^Lest he should despatch a number too great for 
me to combat, I have lurked in hiding, delight of 
souls! in a most filthy hovel belonging to a barber!" 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 307 

**May thy tongue turn into a scorpion and bite 
thee ! * ' I cried. * * My abode is as clean as the palace 
of the Khedive ! Thou hast never entered it, thou 
gnat's eggl Thou hast hidden in I know not what 
hole, like the uiiclean insect thou art, until thy 
steward (may his beard grow backward and smother 
him!) informed thee of this I Allah! (to whom 
be ascribed all might and glory) give me strength 
to move this accursed box that I may crush him ! ' ' 

Scarce had I uttered the last word, when a girl 
came running into the apartment, crying: **Fly, my 
master ! my mistress ! The Wall ! the Walt ! ' ' 

Upon hearing these words, my rage departed from 
me and in its place came excessive fear. My breath 
left my body, and my heart ceased to beat. 

**He that falleth in the dirt be trodden on by 
camels, '* I reflected. **It is not enough, Es-Samit, 
that thou hast suffered the attack of the assassin; 
that thou hast all but died of fear at the door of the 
Wall's house; that thou hast been torn from the 
arms of the loveliest creature God hath created ; thou 
are destined, now, most unfortunate of men, to be 
detected by the Wall in his daughter's apartments, 
concealed in a box!" 

And I pronounced the TaJcbir, crying, '*0 Allah! 
thy ways are inscrutable!" 

^^Fly, my beloved!" cried Jullanar to Ahzab. 
'*My women will conceal thee!" WTierewith she 
swooned and fell upon the floor senseless. 

** Quick! follow me closely, O my master!" cried 
the girl, and I heard my perfidious brother depart 



308 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

from the room by one door, as the Wall entered by 
another. 

^»Ah!'' cried the Wali, clapping his hands. 
'* Slaves! what is this! 

And people came running to his command ;. some 
carrying out the lady JuUanar to her sleeping apart- 
ment, and sprinkling rose-water upon her, and some 
remaining. 

^'What is in this box upon the diwanf' demanded 
the Wali. ' ' Bring it hither and open it ! * ' 

At that I knew that I was lost, and my soul as good 
as departed, and I bade farewell to life and invoked 
Mohammed (whom may God preserve) to intercede 
for me that I might die an easy death. 

The chest was dragged into the middle of the floor 
and thrown open. 

' ' Name of my mother ! ' ' exclaimed the Wali. * * It 
is Ahzab the ]\Ierchant! It is the villain who hath 
presumed to make love to my daughter ! Allah ! 
my daughter hath disgraced me ! By the beard of 
the Prophet, I can no more hold up my head among 
honest men!'* 

And he slapped his face and plucked his beard, 
and fell insensible upon the floor. As he did so, I 
leaped from the box and would have escaped, but 
two blacks seized me ; and the noise, or the refresh- 
ing quality of the rose-water with which the women 
were sprinkling him, revived the Wali, who re- 
covered, fixing upon me a terrible gaze. 

•*0 thou dog!'' he said; *Hhou who hast wrought 
my disgrace! As thou didst enter my house in 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 309 

yonder box, in yonder box shalt thou quit the world ! 
Cast him back again, fasten the box with ropes, and 
throw it into the Nile at nightfall!*' 



IV 



Now were my powers of silence most snrprisingly 
displayed. For I spoke no word, but dumb as a 
tongueless man, I allowed myself to be knocked back- 
ward into the box. The lid closed upon me, ropes 
bound about the box, and the seal of the Wali affixed 
to it. Negroes carried it out, and threw it into some 
cellar to await nightfall. 

*'0 Es-Samit!'' I said, **this is the end that was 
appointed to thy father's wisest son I To this pass 
thy silence and wisdom have brought thee I Allah 
(to whom be all glory), grant that one of the fishes 
that eat me in the Nile shall be served up to Ahzab, 
my twin brother, and choke himl'* 

And then my thoughts turned to JuUanar, and I 
sighed and groaned; and the torments I suffered 
through lying drawn up in the box were delights to 
the agonies that my reflections respecting her case 
occasioned in me ; so that, with the excess of my woe 
and misery, I became insensible. How long I re- 
mained so T know not, but I was awakened by a 
knocking at the lid of the box, and the voice of the 
Wali spoke, saying : 

** Prepare to die, O wretch! for my servants are 
about to convey thee to the river and cast thee in! 



310 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT 

Thou dog! who didst presume to raise thine eyes 
to my daughter! — ^know that this is the reward of 
such malefactors; for assuredly if thou escapest 
alive, thou shalt wed Jullanar!^' 

Whereat he laughed until he almost swooned and 
kicked the box until I thought he had burst it. 
Blacks raised me, and I was borne do^vn a long flight 
of steps and onward in I know not what direction. 

**From here?" said one of them, and through a 
crack in the lid, I saw the light of a torch, and the 
whispering of the river came to my ears. 

**Yes!" replied another. 

And I commended my soul to Allah as ths box 
was swung to and fro and hurled through the air. 
With a sound in my ears as of the shrieking of teu 
thousand efreets, I was plunged into the water ! 

Far under the surface I went and knew all the 
agonies of dissolution; but the box was strongly 
and cunningly made and rose again; then it began 
to fill and sink once more, and again I tasted of the 
final pangs. Throughout all this time, a strong 
current was bearing the box along, and presently, 
as, for the fiftieth occasion, I was seeking to die and 
to end my misery, I heard voices. 

The most miserable life is sweet to him who feels 
it slipping from his grasp, and I summoned sufficient 
strength to raise a feeble cry. 

*^0 Allah!" I cried, ^4f it be thy will, grant thai 
these persons whose voices I hear take pity upon my 
unfortunate condition, and draw me forth." 

Even as I spoke, something stayed the onward 



POMEGRANATE FLOWER 311 

progress of the box. It was a fisherman's net! 
And the fishermen began to draw me into the boat, 
I praising Allah the while. 

But when they had the box upon the edge of the 
boat, and heard my voice proceeding from within, 
and saw the Wall's seal upon the lid — *^By the beard 
of the Prophet ! ' ' cried one, * * this is some evil ginn 
or magician whom the Wall hath imprisoned in this 
chest! Allah avert the omen! Cast him back, 
comrades!*' 

Alas ! I could find no words wherewith to entreat 
them to take pity; never had paucity of speech 
served me so ill! A great groan issued from my 
bossom as I was consigned again to the Nile ! 

Allah is great, and it was not written that I should 
perish in that manner. For another current now 
seized upon the box, and just as I was on the point 
of dissolution, cast it upon a projecting bank, where 
it was perceived by a band of four robbers, who 
derived a livelihood from plundering such vessels 
as lay unprotected in the river. 

These waded out and dragged the box ashore. I 
was too near my end to have spoken had I desired 
to speak, but from my unfortunate adventure with 
the fishermen, I had learned that silence was wisdom, 
now as always. Thus I lay in the box like a dog that 
has been all but drowned, and listened to the words 
of my rescuers. 

These were arguing respecting the contents and 
value of the box, one holding this opinion and another 
that. One, who seemed to be their leader, was about 



312 TALES OF SECRET EGfYPT 

to unfasten the ropes, but another claimed that this 
was his due. So, from angry words, they came to 
blows, and by the grace of God (whose name be ex- 
alted) they drew their knives, and three of the four 
were slain. The fourth removed the ropes and 
opened the box, thinking to enjoy, alone, the treas- 
ures which he supposed it to contain. 

Whereupon I uprose and looked up to where 
Canopus shone, and said : 

** There is no God but God! Praise be to Allah 
who has preserved me from an unfortunate and un- 
seemly end!'' 

At that, the robber, with wild cries of fear, turned 
and ran, and I saw him no more. Such, bountiful 
patron, is the disgraceful story of the dog Ahzab, 
my seventh and twin broteher. But all that which 
I endured happened by Fate and Destiny, and from 
that which is written there is no escape nor flight 

Our worthy host (concluded Hassan) laughed 
heartily at this story, saying : 

**0 Es-Samit, it is evident to me that thy paucity 
of speech alone preserved thee from drowning ! But 
acquaint us, I beg, with the fate of thy dog of a 
brother, and of thy beautiful Pomegranate Flower." 

*'0 glory of beholders!'* replied the barber, **by 
the mouth of the girl who was in Jullanar's confi- 
dence — Ahzab, that shame of mules, learned, whilst 
in hiding, how the Wall had said in the presence of 
many witnesses: 'Assuredly if thou escapest alive, 
thou shalt wed Jullanar.' " 



POMEGEANATE FLOWER 313 

''TeUest thou me that he had the effrontery to de- 
mand the fulfihnent of a pledge so spoken, Es- 
Samitf" 

^ "Alas!'' replied the barber, with tears pouring 
like rain down the wrinkles of his aged cheek, ''he 
Kved with her the most joyous, and most agreeable, 
and most comfortable, and most pleasant life until 
they were visited by the terminator of deKghts, and 
tae separator of companions I'* 



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